Sales at troubled UK car maker Rover slumped by a quarter last year, new figures show. And overall car sales were flat, at 2.2 million – a 2.2% dip on the 1998 total. Rover sales slumped from nearly 194,000 in 1998 to just over 143,000 in 1999.
The drop includes sales of the new 75 model, on which the company had been pinning its hopes for a turnaround in fortunes. The December 1999 sales of 85,582 were 12.2% down on the December 1998 total. But SMMT spokesman Al Clarke said the figures were good, considering that there had been predictions of “doom”.
The motor industry had ended last year 7% up, he said. The Society also said 1999 was the fourth-highest year on record.
Industry observers believe next Rover – which is owned by BMW – could announce losses of more than £600m. But a spokesman for Rover denied such an announcement would be made. The first six months of 1999 showed a fall of 30% in Rover sales.
The company’s market share dipped from 8.63% in 1998 to 6.52% in 1999, although it could at least take heart from good December 1999 sales figures. BMW insists Rover is turning the corner, despite consistent falls in sales. The government’s £152m aid for Rover’s troubled Longbridge plant is being investigated by the European Commission.
Rolls-Royce also had a disappointing 1999, with sales slumping by 30.82%. The Crewe-based company sold 422 cars against a figure of 610 in 1998. But another luxury car manufacturer, Jaguar, enjoyed a good 1999, with sales accelerating nearly 33% to 15,483. Once again, Ford and Vauxhall were the top two selling companies, with Peugeot, Renault and Volkswagen all pushing ahead of Rover.
Car prices drop
Meanwhile, car prices in general are falling. Earlier this week, figures showed nearly-new cars were an average of 13.5% cheaper in November compared with the same month in 1998. But new vehicle prices fell a more modest 1.9%. Used cars were 9.3% cheaper.
Drivers appear to have been delaying buying new cars in the UK because prices are seen as far higher than elsewhere in Europe. Later this month, watchdogs at the Competition Commission are expected to recommend a major shake-up in pricing after a detailed investigation into manufacturers and dealers.