New car sales in May were up 1.5 per cent on the same month last year at 6,080, but the market remains down 4.3 per cent overall on the year to date, with total registrations to the end of May at 85,933.
With the motor trade pointing to the continued flow of used imports as the reason for the decline in new car sales this year, dealers are now focussing on the new 182 registration period, which begins on July 1st.
Used car imports in May stood at 8,979 for the month, up 18.4 per cent on the same month last year, bringing the year to date total to 43,738, up 13 per cent.
According to Alan Nolan, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), the slight increase in new registrations in May is not an indication of improvement, rather a case of altered timing in hire drive market with 470 more registered in May this year. With hire drives removed from the figures, the overall total for the year to date is actually 13 cars behind 2017, he said. Total hire drive registrations so far this year stood at 1,868.
New car buyers continued to turn away from diesel, with sales down 19.4 per cent on last year, although it still makes up 55.6 per cent of total sales. Hybrids in its various guises are proving increasingly popular, making up 5.9 per cent of the market as against 3.3 per cent this time last year. Electric car sales increased from 370 in 2017 to 512 this year. The number of imported used electric vehicles also increased from 165 to 280 this year.
Volkswagen remains the best-selling brand, making up 9,345 registrations, ahead of Toyota with 8,297, Hyundai with 8,214 and Ford with 7,777. The best-selling model is the Nissan Qashqai with 3,030 sales, followed closely by the Hyundai Tucson with 2,908 and VW Golf with 2,548.
Sales of new light commercials, normally regarded as a bellwether for economic activity, were up 5.9 per cent at 15,943 so far this year, but registrations of heavy goods vehicles are down 7.7 per cent at 1,385.