Irish Army is biggest buyer of new cars in April as sales collapse 96%

Motor dealerships hope to be among first to reopen in any lifting of Covid-19 restrictions

Total new car sales were 344 last month, with the delivery of 25 new SUVs to the Army – part of a larger contract signed earlier this year – making the Toyota Land Cruiser April’s best selling car

Total new car sales were 344 last month, with the delivery of 25 new SUVs to the Army – part of a larger contract signed earlier this year – making the Toyota Land Cruiser April’s best selling car

 

The Army was the biggest single buyer of new cars in April as sales collapsed by 96 per cent. Total new car sales were just 344 last month, with the delivery of 25 new SUVs to the Army – part of a larger contract – making the Toyota Land Cruiser April’s bestselling vehicle.

With travel restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 lockdown, there were no new hire cars registered last month, normally a lucrative sales market for the motor trade at this time of the year. Last April, 2,725 new cars were registered as hire drives, representing 30.6 per cent of sales that month.

So far this year, new car sales are down 30.7 per cent to 50,626, with senior executives in the industry suggesting the fall-off this year could be as much as 60 per cent by year end.

The size of dealerships and the average footfall, for both sales and servicing, lends itself to social distancing

While there are hopes that motor dealerships will be among the first wave of businesses to reopen, there have been calls for Government supports and incentives to be introduced to help lift sales.

Brian Cooke, SIMI director-general, said: “Like many other sectors of the economy, Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on the Irish motor industry. SIMI members have during the course of the lockdown to date been available to assist in emergency and essential call-outs. We continue to play our part in keeping vital goods and services moving.

‘Lack of activity’

“However, the registration numbers underline the lack of activity in new vehicle sales, and this is replicated for used cars and servicing. While the short-term outlook for the Irish economy is bleak, once the health situation allows, the motor industry is ready to get back to work.

“Members have used this downtime to implement measures, in accordance with both industry and State guidelines, that will protect both their employees and customers against the spread of Covid-19. The size of dealerships and the average footfall, for both sales and servicing, lends itself to social distancing, while sanitisation measures being put in place for both premises and vehicles means that safety and protection are at the top of the agenda.

“With the July registration period approaching, the motor industry will be well placed to help start activity in the Irish economy. This has the potential to protect the nearly 50,000 people in employment in the sector, increasing Government revenues, improving the safety of the cars on Irish roads, while also improving Ireland’s environmental performance by replacing old cars with new or newer cars.”

Financial crash

Earlier this week, Paddy Magee, Renault’s country operations director, said that, unlike other sectors of the economy, the motor industry had never fully recovered from the financial crash of 2008-09. He warned this latest crisis will lead to job losses and closures.

“Our industry never fully recovered from that hit and now we are facing another equally severe crisis,” he said. Mr Magee called for a two-month cut in VRT to be introduced in line with the new 202 registration period starting on July 1st to support jobs, help replace older, more polluting cars in the national fleet, and protect the Government’s tax income.

Motor dealerships are closed, apart from appointments for urgent repairs. Mr Magee said it was likely that servicing operations would resume in line with the reopening of National Car Test centres.

However, due to their spacious showroom layouts and appointment systems, dealerships are well suited to implement social distancing and therefore should be part of the initial wave of businesses allowed to reopen. In Germany, motor dealers were permitted to reopen last Monday.