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Car sales still in the doldrums

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April new-car sales may be as bad as March`s 30.5% drop despite the new 09 number plates and the imminent arrival of the "bangers for cash" car-scrappage scheme.

Attempts to woo customers back into the showrooms are facing resistance as people count the cost of motoring, including rising fuel prices and car-insurance premiums.

Overall sales are down 29.7% for the first three months of this year, and are forcing manufacturers to axe staff and cut back drastically on production.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is now forecasting that year-end sales could dip below 1.7 million, similar to the early 1990s, when monthly purchases fell for 29 successive months.

It had been hoping that sales might be revived by the Government`s scrappage scheme, which is intended to encourage people to forsake their old cars in favour of new ones.

It will give £2,000 - half from the Government, half from the car industry - to the owners of 10-year-old cars when they trade them in. A similar scheme in Germany led to a 40% jump in sales.

© Press Association 2009