Buoyant Lotus bucks car sales slump

Norfolk sports car manufacturer Lotus is bucking the national trend by recording a huge increase in new car sales last month, compared to the same period a year ago.

Norfolk sports car manufacturer Lotus is bucking the national trend by recording a huge increase in new car sales last month, compared to the same period a year ago.

While the UK new car market is in the doldrums, recording the lowest August new car registrations since 1966 as the credit crunch deepens, Lotus has seen its sales soar by a mega 292.31pc.

The company sold 51 cars in August 2008 compared with 13 in August 2007, in what is traditionally one of the quietest times of the year, according to figures released yesterday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The society said Lotus had recorded “exceptional growth” in the month, only exceeded by car manufacturer Smart which sold 260 vehicles compared with 32 during August 2007 - an increase of more than 712pc.

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By contrast, the majority of companies, including Vauxhall, Ford, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin, experienced a significant drop in sales.

Mike Kimberley, chief executive of Group Lotus, said: “The reality is that we are doing well in a down market. Year on year we are actually up 10.6pc. It shows this is not just a flash in the pan and compares to Porsche who are down 26pc, and Bentley down 18pc.

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“Our customers really are afficianados and enthusiasts; people who really know what cars are about; and also they know the exact specifications and what the comparisons are in the market and the residual values - which in our case are extremely high.”

He said the company produced light, safe, high-performance cars which were more economical to run and less expensive than some of their competitors. And the launch of the new Evora in July had played a part in the equation by raising the profile of Lotus across the globe.

“We have got 250 deposits in the UK alone and we haven't announced the price yet,” he added.

As to coming months, Mr Kimberley said: “The market is softening, there's no doubt about it. I am sure we will hold our own better than the bigger cars, the heavy cars and the gas guzzlers. Yes, we are bucking the trend, not only in the UK but in Europe even more. Our sales in Europe are massively higher than we bargained for. The only area running at a low level is America.”

Meanwhile, Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, urged the government to take action to kick-start consumer confidence after new car sales slumped to 63,225 last month, down 18.6pc on the previous August.

“The slowdown in the UK mirrors the difficult conditions being experienced across the main European markets,” he said.

“Industry is encouraged by the growing interest in lower carbon cars, but it is concerned by the reluctance of consumers to commit to major purchases. There is a clear need for sustained action by the government to boost the economy and restore confidence.”

August typically accounts for about 3pc of annual volumes, falling just before the plate change in September.

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