Electric car sales up 11% at the start of 2020 sales

Initial figures for first 10-days shows fall in used imports as new NOx tax comes into force

Sales of new fully-electric cars rose by 11 per cent during the first few days of 2020, though they still represent only 2.4 per cent of the total new car market with 322 registrations. Unofficial sales figures for the first 10-days of the year show 13,344 new cars were registered by close of business on Friday, down 1.8 per cent on the same 10-day period last year.

Toyota is the best-selling brand for new car sales in 2020. The Japanese brand with 1,984 sales, ahead of Hyundai with 1,674, Volkswagen with 1,053 and Nissan with 1,028.Kia has surged into fifth place with 938 sales. At the premium end of the market, Mercedes-Benz has overtaken rivals Audi and BMW. The Toyota Corolla remains the best-selling model with 754 sales, ahead of the Hyundai's Tucson and Kona.

Diesel remains the most popular engine choice, making up 43.2 per cent compared to petrol with 37.7 per cent, while hybrids - in regular and plug-in format - total 16.45 per cent.

Nissan's Leaf is the most popular fully electric car with 104 sales, ahead of Hyundai's electric version of the Kona with 58. As for premium electric models, BMW's i3 small car has 29 registrations in 2020, compared to 11 for the Tesla Model 3.


However, petrol-electric hybrid is the biggest growth sector in the new car market, with sales up 91 per cent to 1,953, representing 14.6 per cent of the new car market. This is mainly due to Toyota’s decision to drop diesel models and more recently to sell several of its models only in hybrid format. Cars from the Japanese brand made up 1,705 of the hybrid sales so far this year.

Sales of plug-in hybrid models also rose 90 per cent, although they still only make up 1.8 per cent of overall sales, with 241 registrations for the first ten days of January.

Used imports

Used imports are down 28 per cent to 1,952, possibly due to the new tax based on a vehicle’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions applied to new car purchases and used imports from January 1st, replacing the current 1 per cent diesel surcharge. It’s expected to significantly affect older used diesel imported cars.

Used imports totalled 108,895 last year, the highest annual number of imports on record, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Its data on cars licensed (taxed) for the first time, show the new car market fell 6.5 per cent in 2019 at 113,305. Of these, 3,443 were fully electric, and 9,579 were regular hybrids, while 1,321 were plug-in hybrids.

Volkswagen was the most popular new car brand in 2019, according to the CSO, with 13,180 cars taxed for the first time, ahead of Toyota with 11,408, Hyundai with 10,281, Ford with 9,047 and Skoda with 8,791.

In the commercial vehicle market, considered a bellwether for economic activity, sales of light commercials – mainly vans – are down 3.4 per cent in the first ten days compared to the same period last year, at 1,910 vehicles. However, there has been a 5.4 per cent increase in registrations of heavy goods vehicles.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

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