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Boost for traders as new car sales set to exceed 200,000

HIGH fuel costs are forcing motorists in some rural areas to trade in their larger cars for smaller, more economical models.

The latest sales figures reveal annual new car sales in Scotland are expected to return to more than 200,000 for the first time since before the credit crunch.

The figures, from the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA), reveal that rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands are leading the boom in new car sales this year as rural drivers "play catch-up" with their urban counterparts as the economic outlook improves.

The figures show there was a 27% increase in people buying new cars in the Highlands during November compared to the same month in 2012. Dumfries and Galloway was second with a 24% increase year-on-year. This compared with a rise of just 2.6% in the urban epicentre of Strathclyde, where Glasgow normally attracts a high proportion of new car sales.

Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the SMTA, said: "There is nothing normal about the figures this year. You would not normally expect to see such massive increases in rural areas, but what I think has been happening is that rural areas were hit worst by the recession and have taken longer to recover.

"So what is happening now is that rural motorists are effectively playing catch-up and finally trading in their old cars for a new one.

"In Aberdeen and Grampian, because it is more affluent anyway, people are tending to buy BMWs, Land Rovers, Audis and that sort of thing, but in the other rural areas, such as Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands, we are mostly seeing people trade down to smaller, more economical family cars.

"So, for example, you might see a Ford Mondeo swapped for a Ford Focus. It is the larger, less fuel-efficient family cars that we are seeing a lot of turn up on the second-hand market."

In the 11 months to the end of November, 194,162 new cars were sold in Scotland - 13% more that at the same point this time last year.

The SMTA is confident total sales for 2013 will exceed 200,000 for the first time since 2007, the year before the credit crunch.

For the second year in a row, the Vauxhall Corsa has been the most popular new car among buyers in Scotland, followed by the Ford Fiesta. Both sold more than 10,000 each, followed in third place by the Ford Focus, with just over 6500 bought in the 11 months to the end of November.

Sales of luxury cars are also up. Scottish motorists have bought 9204 new BMWs this year, up 5% on 2012, with 6414 drivers buying a Mercedes - almost as many as bought a Toyota and up 3% on last year.

Sales of high-end sports cars, such as Ferraris, Maseratis and Aston Martins, also increased among the handful of Scots able to afford them - though the increases were all less than 1%. A total of 32 new Ferraris have hit the roads in Scotland so far this year, along with 44 Aston Martins and 21 Maseratis. Only three new Lamborghinis have been bought, the same as in 2012.

Mr Robertson added: "Again, we are very pleased with these figures. With the total of 194,162 to date we are already well past last year's total of 181,875 and are now anticipating exceeding 200,000 in the year for the first time since 2007.

"We believe these figures confirm our claim that confidence has returned to the consumer market. This, together with the vast range of keenly priced and economical to run cars available at SMTA franchised dealers, should ensure a steady increase in new car sales into 2014."

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