Peugeot has begun to count the cost of its decision to close its Ryton plant with falling sales, workers' leaders claimed yesterday.
While the overall number of new registrations in the UK increased by 1.1 per cent in May, the number of new Peugeots fell by 15.67 per cent.
Just 10,390 were sold compared with 12,300 for the same month last year according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Jim O ' Boyle, works convenor for the Transport & General Workers' Union, said Peugeot could expect even lower sales if it pressed ahead with its decision to axe 2,300 jobs at the Coventry factory.
He said: "This shows the reaction of the British consumer to Peugeot's decision to quit the UK in search of cheap labour in Eastern Europe to increase their profits.
"There is no doubt there sales will go down further. When Ford left the United Kingdom they saw a reduction in their market share of one per cent, and that was without any campaign against Ford products.
"The British consumer is beginning to vote with their feet. Peugeot cannot expect to sack people in this country and retain customer loyalty."
Ian Sedgwick of Peugeot said: "Although we are down 15 per cent in May, in the year to date we are only down two per cent, which is better than the overall market which has seen a 4.3 per cent drop.
"We had a very strong February and March, and although we had also had drop in April, we are about to launch the 207.
"People are holding off, waiting for the new car. I don't think the downturn is anything to do with Ryton, which produced only the 206."
Meanwhile long suffering Jaguar enjoyed an increase in new registrations helped by the introduction of the Birmingham-built XK sports car.
Registrations increased by 9.03 per cent last month to 1,836 vehicles, although the year to date figure still languished 5.6 per cent down at 10,420.
A Jaguar spokesman said: "The new XK, which saw sales increase by 236 per cent in May compared with the same month last year.
"Customer orders are running ahead of production, but we are doing everything we can to meet demand.
"The XJ is also up, with sales ahead 86 per cent ahead in May, which we think is because of the new diesel version.
"We are encouraged with the improvement, but there is still a long way to go."
Other Midland marques enjoyed mixed fortunes as the industry as a whole saw the first increase in new registration this year.
Land Rover saw registrations fall by 6.32 per cent compared with May last year, with 3,158 new vehicles sold, although it was still 9.9 per cent ahead in the year to date at 19,856 vehicles.
Mini, which has seen production reduced while work is carried out to expand the factory at Oxford, saw registrations in the month fall by 2.26 per cent to 3,540, while in the year to date they are 15.4 per cent down at 16,268. In a strange development, the number of MGs sold rose by 52 per cent in May to 244, while the number of Rovers sold rose by 80 per cent to 278.
This was despite production of the cars ceasing last April, although discounts on the forecourts is thought to be a factor in the recent increase.
New car registrations rose for the first time this year in May, with a 1.1 per cent, or 2,102 unit, rise to 190,000 cars.
Despite the rise in May, volumes were still down by 46,438 units, 4.3 per cent, over the first five months of the year.
SMMT chief executive, Christopher Macgowan said: "In what is proving to be a competitive market, the rise in May figures reflects a small upturn in consumer confidence.
"We hope that easing fuel prices, a burst of better weather and a strong England performance in Germany will be reflected in new car sales in the coming weeks."