The almost total sales collapse of MG Rover has been highlighted in the latest car registration figures released by the industry.
Sales of new MGs and Rovers fell by a 95 per cent in May and contributed to a general decline in the market, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Overall car sales for the month were down 6,850 compared with 2004, a drop of 3.3 per cent, although volumes for the year-to-date still surpassed the one million unit mark for the fifth successive year. The new car market has fallen in each month of 2005, but the 3.4 per cent fall reported in May was the smallest recorded so far.
Many marques were affected by the downturn, but it was the Longbridge pair which bore the brunt.
MG saw sales nosedive by
94.7 per cent from 3,036 cars in May 2004 to 160 last month.
Rover was even harder hit, with new registrations falling from 3,908 to just 154. The SMMT said the collapse of MG Rover and the effect of recent interest rate rises were responsible for the overall sales drop.
Chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: "The slowdown in the market is generally in line with expectations. Recent high street sales figures show that consumer confidence is low and a subdued manufacturing sector is also unsettling demand.
"While net volumes are forecast to slide, a market of almost 2.5 million units is still envisaged in 2005. In a competitive market, this month's figures remain stable, despite a slight dip compared to last year's near record levels. The industry is proving resilient as it rides out weakening consumer confidence and the short-term problems associated with the loss of MG Rover."
Other Midland car producers faced contrasting fortunes during the month.
Land Rover saw sales increase by nearly eight per cent to 3,371 vehicles, while Jaguar registrations fell by 38 per cent to 1,684.
A spokesman for Ford's Premier Automotive Group, the parent company of both Jaguar and Land Rover, said: "It is disappointing, but this performance is line with our expectations.
"The premium sector Jaguar operates in has been depressed this month, while there has been a number of new vehicles from our competitors coming into the market. We have got two new diesel models - a high performance X-Type and the first ever diesel XJ - and we expect good things from these, especially in view of the growth of the diesel sector.
"After that we have got our new sports car coming out early next year."
The spokesman added that the company was pleased with the performance of Land Rover. "This success is down to the new products with the new Discovery leading the way and the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport coming on stream."
Peugeot, which makes the 206 car at its Ryton plant in Coventry, saw sales drops two per cent to 12,324 in May.
All sectors saw an overall decline, apart from the lower medium car segment which reported a 7.4 per cent increase in sales buoyed by new models like the BMW 1 series and the new Vauxhall Astra.
Meanwhile the number of diesel vehicles sold have hit their highest level. Diesels accounted for 36.8 per cent of the May new car market. This was the 56th successive monthly rise and the 12.1 per cent growth in May was the biggest rise this year.