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New plates fail to boost car market

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The new number plate has failed to distract people from their credit crunch woes, as the economic downturn continues to hit the new car market, official figures are expected to show.

Sales of the new 58 plates - on sale from last month - are expected to be well down on the September 2007 total of more than 419,000.

And the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' (SMMTs') announcement of the September figures - due on Monday - follows a big fall in sales during August.

Until the last few months, new car sales had held up well compared with other consumer spending.

But new car sales slipped 6.1% in June, and were down 13% in July. When August new registrations tumbled 18.6% to 63,225, it signalled that the economic downturn had finally reached the motor industry.

The August sales were the worst figures since 1966, although until 1999 August was the new number plate month - with consequently swollen sales figures - before the motor industry decided to introduce new plates twice a year, in March and September.

The downturn is already having an effect on the industry, with Ford introducing a four-day week until the end of the year at its Transit van plant in Southampton and other companies, including Jaguar Land Rover, cutting back on production.

© The Press Association 2008