Car sales fall again in June as imports continue to rise

13,300 cars brought in from UK so far this year

The car trade in Ireland will be hoping for a significant boost from the July registration plate change, as sales of new models dipped again in June. Figures released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that 91,189 new cars have been sold so far this year, a drop, compared to 2016, of 10 per cent. Sales in June were down by 14 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Those figures are set against the background of increasing imports of cars from the UK, which continue to be driven by a weakened Sterling exchange rate. According to industry watchers motorcheck.ie, 13,381 cars have been imported from the UK so far this year, a rise of some 41 per cent.

So far this year, Volkswagen is the top-selling brand overall with 9,220 registrations, followed by Toyota (8,900), Hyundai (8,584), Ford (8,510), and Nissan (7,722). The top selling models up to the end of June were the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf, and Ford Focus.

With just 1,397 new cars registered in June, the best-selling brand was BMW, driven largely by the market arrival and delivery of its new 5 Series, which was the best-selling model of the month. However, for the year to date, Audi retains the slightest of leads over its premium German rivals. To date Audi has 3,705 new car registrations, BMW has 3,688 registrations, while Mercedes-Benz has 3,556.

Commercial sales

Commercial vehicle sales have slipped, which is possibly a larger worry for the wider economy. With sales of 18,889 units so far this year, van sales are down by 14 per cent for the year as a whole. There has also been a noticeable series of spikes in last-day registrations in the first four months of the year, indicating that a high proportion of the cars sold were actually being pre-registered to boost dealers’ and importers’ sales figures, although May and June showed a distinct reduction in such practices.

Not surprisingly, the trade is showing some signs of caution about what July may bring. Commenting on the figures SIMI Director General, Alan Nolan said: "As we had anticipated, the first half of the year has seen a decline in registrations in all sectors. As the Industry's now turns it focus to the 172 registration period which commenced on the 1st of July, we would anticipate that sales in the second half of the year should keep us on track to reach the 132,000 total that was predicted at the start of the year."

Signs for optimism

There may be some signs for optimism, however. The preliminary figures for July 1st show sales jumping up to 2,833, according to car history checking website Motorcheck. That is less than half the figure of July 1st sales for 2016, but July 1st this year was a Saturday, compared to a Friday in 2016, which may explain some of the discrepancy.

Either way, according to Michael Rochford from Motorcheck.ie, there is still some optimism within the Irish car trade. "A lot is made of the slide in new car sales, but actually both the motor trade and the economy seem to be in a good place despite the uncertainty that comes with Brexit," Rochford told The Irish Times. "When viewed in the context of the last three years, where sustained growth of 30 per cent plus year-on-year has brought the industry back to pre-2008 levels, a 10 per cent adjustment downwards this year does not look bad at all.

“If stats are anything to go by the results for new car sales in June seem to support a view of the booming economy with the premium segment dominating the month. In June BMW was the top selling manufacturer and the BMW 5 Series the top selling model and the X1, 4 Series and 1 Series also making the top 10.”