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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 28, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    New cars sales top total for last year – but reg system still a problem

    Michael McAleer

    Great news today for an industry that has taken a battering in the recession: new car sales so far this year now exceed the total for last year, with 57,898 10-registered cars on our roads, up 438 more than the total sold last year.
    According to Alan Nolan, director general of the SIMI, this milestone in the recovery of the industry is down to the Government’s scrappage scheme. According to Nolan: “We didn’t expect to be hitting the 57,000 mark in May. At the beginning of the year we predicted 70,000 new car sales for 2010. Now, we are looking at considerably more. Our proposals last year estimated that around 10,000 scrappage scheme cars would be sold, but we also predicted that one of the real benefits of scrappage would be to kick-start the demand for new cars.”
    It has certainly done that. It now seems likely the end-of-year figure may well reach 80,000.
    Yet scrappage, for all the credit given to it for the market’s recovery, still only accounts for just over 5,000 of this year’s sales.
    Arguably more important to the recovery of the car market is the dramatic drop in prices in the last 12 months. After more than a decade of creeping price rises, there is now incredible value in the market, with several entry model cars falling below €10,000 and premium saloons down by up to 15 per cent in some cases.
    Closer inspection of the sales figures show that the most significant shift in buyer habits has been the focus on emissions. The Government’s move in July 2008 to base the tax system for new cars on emissions levels has been an unqualified success when it comes to changing consumer tastes.
    It has had a far less beneficial effect for the Government’s income. The trend towards downsizing continues apace and tax income from VRT and motor tax is down significantly. The same is likely to be happening within the car industry itself, where smaller cars don’t carry the same profit levels as their bigger counterparts.
    If scrappage can claim credit of one major shift in consumer perceptions, it’s that owning a 10-registered car is now socially acceptable. Last year it was difficult to own an 09-registered car while so many families were suffering from cutbacks and rising unemployment.
    The scorn that some drivers received on the roads last year simply because of the number plates on their cars raises an issue that now needs further consideration.
    If we are to help the long-term survival of the motor industry and the thousand it employs we need to reassess our number plate system. There remains far too much focus on start of year sales, driven largely by a registration system that gives such prominence to the year of registration. It creates an unnecessary social status issue, that means dealerships are over-run at the start of the year and virtually idle from the autumn period.
    Removing the year from the registration plate seems a sensible approach. The industry can do their bit as well: ensuring that trade-in prices take account of the months of ownership rather than simply valuing all cars for a single year under the same price bracket. There are many suggestions for an alternative to the current year system. It’s time to open the debate.

    • Jonathan says:

      At last.
      I’ve always thought it is ridiculous to put the year on the number plate. In good times it makes new cars a status symbol, and in bad times it makes them vulgar. It is totally unnecessary to put “publish” when a car was bought.
      I know that Israel put the year on number plates for about 10 years (in the 1980s) and then gave up the practice as they realized it was stupid.

    • dealga says:

      We don’t have a motor industry, we have motor importers whose sales help prop up foreign industries. The notion of a motor industry is as daft as referring to shops selling wine as Ireland’s wine industry. The fact a sports chain store is now running a scrappage scheme for old trainers shows how ludicrous the principle of State tax breaks to assist car sellers really is.

    • Jacques Cartier says:

      “Last year it was difficult to own an 09-registered car while so many families were suffering from cutbacks and rising unemployment.”

      That is the biggest load of nonsense I’ve ever heard. Who ever heard of a driver being abused for having an 09 reg car? The Irish reg system works perfectly well, probably better than any other in Europe. Leave well enough alone.

    • Noel Leahy says:

      I am delighted to see from dealga’s comments that someone other than myself can see the lunacy of the scrapage scheme. I have said for years that the SIMI is a misnomer, that we buy vehicles and so send millions of euro abroad each year, which helps other countries maintain its industries and economies. The govt. charges import duty (the real name for VRT), car tax, VAT on everything to do with having your own transport, carbon tax and probably a lot more.
      Do we get value for money? To paraphrase a well known saying from our tribunals – do we heck!
      No public transport system for the 3/4 of the population outside Dublin, no real infrastructure, bad roads poorly maintained and costing yet more money to make repairs to our vehicles because of damage done and govt. taxing motoring to the hilt, whilst not returning any significant funding and cynically, (hypocritically?) preaching “green” policies. Not practised though.
      Changing number plates is probably going to be the next way for people to show off. One thing is for sure, it isn’t going to happen because it might help Joe and Mary Soap.

    • Steve says:

      Finally! For years I’ve railed at the ridiculous Irish registration system, which was obviously dreamed up by some motor industry “whizzkid” as a means of forcing people, through their own concern of appearance, into purchasing new cars more regularly. No doubt it succeeded in its intent (though such a manipulative tactic should never have been approved by the government), but the side effect of front-loaded sales would have been obvious to any bystander. Thank you for bringing this to attention, though I fear the likelihood of such an idea being followed up on is remote to say the least. We’ve seen only too much evidence of the stubborn and ignorant approach of the Irish authorities over the last few years.

    • Paul Swann says:

      Why should tax payers prop up a particular Retail Sector? Why should tax payers encourage others to destroy the environment? Why should tax payers prop up Foreign Vehicle Manufacturers.

      Has anyone copped on yet, that the more cars that are imported into Ireland the more roads we need to build to accommodate them?
      Look at the UK – regardless to how many motorways they build they need more because more and more cars keep being imported.

    • Patrick Dillon says:

      why not have 10 – ke -5xxxx to indicate the car was bought new in May 2010.

    • JohnJoe says:

      The scrappage scheme is a FF inspired idea to save their friends. Why that industry? Why not add the money to any one of a million industries?

      Did we not show the year before? I remember my Dad owned a ‘ZG’ reg car, which meant a certain year. I used to know the years based on the letters.

    • Michael says:

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with Ireland’s reg system. It is simple, and provides the information that a potential buyer requires.

      Even when we had reg numbers like JZO 123, people still wanted to buy their cars in January, so having the year of registration on the reg plate has little or no effect on sales, and, even if it does, so what?

      “Last year it was difficult to own an 09-registered car while so many families were suffering from cutbacks and rising unemployment.” Utter rubbish. There are plenty of 10-registered cars around this year, and there are a lot more unemployed people now than last year.

      What do we want? Another Government Commission (jobs for the boys) to sit around for a year and come up with some replacement reg system? No thanks. There are a lot of other things that require attention, like poverty, the health system, and schools.

    • Des says:

      I really like the idea of taking the year off the number plate. I live in Belgium where it is impossible to tell the age of a car from its number plate. While people still get pleasure from owning a new car, there is very little status about it. i know many “rich” people that drive older cars and they are under no pressure to change.
      In ireland I know people that are clearly embarassed by the date on their number plate. God help them.
      A change on the registration plate system would not help the SIMI members, as the snobs might not change their cars so often. But that would keep more money in the country wouldn’t it?

    • Paul says:

      What about the fact that the car has to have the original owners home county ( in irish!) . As a result I can buy a second hand car in the UK and it has my home county on it when I register it, but i cannot do the same if I was to buy a Cork reg car.

    • Jennifer says:

      The fact that so many people see a new plate as a status symbol says more about Irish society than it does about anything else. I like my cars, they’re more than just a mode of transport to me, but my car bears a 20th century reg. I can quite honestly say I’ve never had anyone approach me with negative comments about the year on my plate. People who feel under some sort of peer pressure to change car because of a few numbers have bigger problems! Our registration system is fine, it’s clear, and easily understood. Leave well enough alone – and grow up!

    • mark hannon says:

      there is a simple system here in germany. registration district(max 3 letters)-random initials(max 2)-random numbers(max 5). car brands are still a status symbol here, but it dosn´t really matter what age the car is. the average car here is driven for well over 10 years anyway.

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