In the race for the title of Ireland's best-selling car, Nissan Ireland is seeking to boost its sales numbers by pre-registering Qashqai SUVs before the end of year.
The Nissan car is currently running a close second to the Hyundai Tucson as the biggest selling model this year. Hyundai has described the move as "cynical" and warned it will challenge Nissan if it advertises the Qashqai as Ireland's best-selling car on the back of such a "ruse".
Pre-registrations occur when new unsold cars are registered by dealers in order to boost the sales figures. These vehicles are then sold on at a discount – often several hundred euros – as ex-demo models with low or no mileage. Pre-registrations have frequently been criticised for creating a false impression of the state of the new car market or the popularity of a particular model.
In a letter seen by The Irish Times, Nissan's Irish distributor told dealers to "supply the chassis numbers for your allocation of pre reg Qashqai for year end" and that "cars will receive agreed support and will be registered on your behalf on the 31st of December".
Strategic business decision
That would mean they would be 182 registered cars, which would impact on their resale values but they would be counted among the total Qashqai sales for this year.
A spokeswoman for Nissan Ireland said the move was a strategic business decision.
When contacted by The Irish Times, Hyundai Ireland managing director Stephen Gleeson said: "We are surprised Nissan Ireland would be involved in such a cynical attempt to be able to manufacture a claim that the Qashqai is Ireland's best-selling car, particularly when approximately 25 per cent of their registrations are simply cars dumped into car hire companies rather than actual retail sales.
"We will be continuing to advertise the Tucson in January as Ireland's best-selling car and are pretty sure the Advertising Standards Authority, whose job it is to make sure that advertising is not misleading, will back us up and challenge Nissan if they attempt to make that claim based on this ruse."
Official figures up to December 16th show 4,025 Hyundai Tucsons have been registered this year, compared with 4,002 Nissan Qashqais.
Closer inspection of the figures show 1,077 of the Qashqais registered were hire drives rather than private sales. That compares with 477 hire drive Tucsons. Hire drives are typically vehicles sold to car hire companies for six months and then taken back by the distributor to be sold as used cars through dealerships, further adding to the stock of low-mileage used Qashqais on forecourts.