Northern Ireland

NI car sales reach 10-year high

Cars Image copyright PA
Image caption The figures are likely to have been distorted by tax changes

Sales of new cars in Northern Ireland reached a 10-year high in March.

However, the figure is likely to have been distorted by tax changes.

There were 8,556 new cars sold during the month, 1,000 fewer than the pre-recession peak of 9,564 in March 2006.

New Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates came into effect on 1 April, which introduced an annual flat-rate charge for all cars except those with zero emissions.

The latest figures had been flattered by some motorists bringing forward buying a new car ahead of the tax changes, said Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey.

"We can therefore anticipate April and May's figures to be somewhat softer," he said.

"It's also noted that Northern Ireland's near double-digit rise in March followed a double-digit fall of 11.2% year-on-year in February."

For the UK as whole, March was the best month on record for UK car registrations, according to the car industry trade body.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 562,337 new cars were registered in March, up 8.4% on the same month last year.

"These record figures are undoubtedly boosted by consumers reacting to new VED changes, pulling forward purchases into March, especially those ultra-low emission vehicles that will no longer benefit from a zero-rate fee," said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

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