The industry federation, Febiac, is playing down its disappointment and says that the fall was 'anticipated'.
The poor economic situation deterred many would-be buyers. In addition many people beat the 31 December deadline when the eco-grant for less polluting cars was abolished and got their purchase in ahead of the Motor Show.
The company car market too is in the doldrums partly as a result of higher taxes on company cars.
The automobile industry believes that 2012 will be a difficult year for the industry. Despite the economic gloom the industry noticed a surge in demand for cheaper petrol cars and growing interest, though certainly no stampede, for electric vehicles.