Car sales stall in final month with signs of tough road ahead

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Soaring demand for electric plug-in vehicles couldn’t prevent a sluggish end to last year for the car market.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers today said new car sales fell 1.1% in December against the same month a year ago.

That couldn’t prevent a record year, with 2.69 million cars sold in 2016, but fears grew that Brexit and rising interest rates will hit one of the brightest spots of the economy.

The December decline was only the third monthly drop in the past five years as carmakers across the UK such as Toyota, Nissan and Ford enjoyed a boom.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes admitted the market has peaked and predicts a 5% fall in sales this year. “Growth at the rate we have seen can’t continue for ever,” he said. 

Plug-in hybrid sales rose 42% in the year, while petrol-electric hybrids were up 25%. SMMT said: “Buyers were attracted by a range of new car models and attractive finance deals.”

As interest rates rise, some fear those deals will come to an end, making a new car unaffordable for many. The best-selling UK car remains the Ford Fiesta.

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January 6, 2017 |
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