Sales of news cars in the UK last month declined 21.9% year-on-year to 54,359 units, according to figures released by the SMMT.

The SMMT called again for a government scrappage scheme to be introduced in Britain, along the lines of those introduced in other European countries. Car sales in Germany were boosted by more than a fifth last month on the back of such a scheme.

“New car registrations continue to decline and although government recognises the strategic importance of the UK motor industry, urgent action is still needed,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“Other European countries have been proactive in assisting their automotive industries and it is imperative that UK government increases the pace in responding to industry proposals for a scrappage scheme and access to finance and credit.”

The SMMT also said that February is typically one of the lowest volume months for new car registrations, being just prior to the registration plate change in March. February typically accounts for just 3.4% of annual sales, compared with 18% in March.

The market slowdown continues across all sales types, fuel types and segments – with the notable exception of the mini sector. New models in the mini segment have helped achieve a 47.3% rise in February and a 42.7% gain over the first two months of 2009, SMMT said.

The Ford Fiesta was the UK’s best selling model for the fourth successive month. The Fiesta was among those models which helped strengthen the supermini segment’s market share to 33.3% in February, from 29.6% last year.

The overall UK new car market is expected to fall to 1.72m units this year, from 2.13m in 2008 and 2.4m in 2007.

March is currently expected to see volumes fall in line with the reduction seen over the first two months of the year, SMMT added.