Diesel car sales overtaken by hybrid but supply issues slowing market down

January sales only matched last year, when Covid lockdown forced showrooms to close

Hybrid cars are outselling diesels in the Irish new car market, while sales of all-electric cars now account for 10.8 per cent of new registrations, up from just 3.9 per cent this time last year.

The switch to hybrid and electric has seen diesel sales fall from 74 per cent of new sales in 2012 to just 22.5 per cent last month. Petrol sales have also declined, from 40.6 per cent in 2019 to 28.6 per cent.

January’s new car sales only matched those of last year, when Covid lockdown forced showrooms to close. New car registrations totalled 25,093, down 0.19 per cent on the same month last year.

Supply problems are blamed as the major cause for lack of growth in the market, where dealers and distributors report very strong consumer demand. In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Gowan Group managing director Mick Dwan said: "Every new vehicle that lands in the Republic will be sold this year."

The global semiconductor shortage is hitting car production as many complex modern cars can require more than 2,000 microchips. That has curtailed supply from factories and led to some customers being told they will have to wait several months for delivery. Customers report that some dealers have offered to return deposits due to the long delays.

Best sellers

Toyota is the best-selling new car brand, with 20 per cent of the market, ahead of rivals Hyundai with 14.5 per cent. Both are some way ahead of Volkswagen in third with 6.9 per cent, Skoda with 6.85 per cent and Kia with 6 per cent.

Of the top 10 best-selling car brands, Ford has suffered the biggest decline, with sales down 41.3 per cent on this time last year, while VW is down 32 per cent.

At the premium end of the market, BMW is the strongest performer with 884 new registrations in January. It is followed by Audi with 733 and Mercedes-Benz with 644.

The best-selling new car is Hyundai's Tucson, followed by a fleet of Toyotas, led by the Corolla, Rav4, C-HR and Yaris.

Buyers

With global chip shortages impacting production, priority is being given to private and corporate buyers. While registrations by private customers are up 5 per cent on last year, and corporate and leasing sales up 8.5 per cent and 36 per cent respectively, registrations for the hire drive market are down 47 per cent. Just 369 cars were registered for the hire drive market,

Self-registrations by the motor industry are down 19.8 per cent to 3,587, although they still account for 14 per cent of the new car market.

A result of the move to electric and hybrid, automatic transmissions now feature in 57 per cent of new cars sold, with manual transmissions making up 42.8 per cent. Fully electric cars are automatic as are 88.5 per cent of the new hybrids registered.

The used import market continues to decline, down 40.7 per cent on last year, when travel restrictions were in place. Just 4,041 used imports arrived into the State in January, with Volkswagen’s Golf topping the list.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times