January surge in hybrid sales but new car market down 3.5%

Toyota is the best-seller in the new 201 registration market

Toyota’s new Corolla, which is only sold as a hybrid, is  the best-selling car for new 201 registrations

Toyota’s new Corolla, which is only sold as a hybrid, is the best-selling car for new 201 registrations


A surge in sales of new petrol-electric hybrids in January has seen their registrations almost double compared to the same time last year.

Figures for January new car registrations, released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that, while the overall market fell 3.46 per cent in January to 31,251, new hybrid registrations rose by 92.3 per cent to 4,241.

Sales of plug-in hybrids also rose to 561, albeit from a low base last year. January registrations of fully-electric new cars were 898, up 12.4 per cent.

With hybrid sales booming, Toyota – a long-time advocate of petrol-electric hybrid technology – unsurprisingly tops the sales charts with 4,309 vehicles registered, up 53.4 per cent on its sales last year. Its new Corolla, which is only sold as a hybrid, is also the best-selling car so far this year with 1,631 registrations, ahead of the Hyundai Tucson crossover with 1,269.

Hyundai holds second place in January sales with 3,374 registrations, ahead of Volkswagen with 3,201 and Skoda with 2,481. Ford, once a permanent fixture in the top three best-selling brands, has slipped to fifth place with 2,344.

At the premium end of the market, Audi tops the sales charts with 1,075 registrations, ahead of Mercedes-Benz with 950 and BMW with 847.

Meanwhile, sports car maker Porsche, which recently opened a new dedicated dealership in the Republic, saw registrations rise to 41 last month, from just three this time last year.


Despite the rapid growth in hybrids, which now account for 13.6 per cent of the new car market, diesel remains the most popular choice among new car buyers, representing 42 per cent of sales, while petrol makes up 39.6 per cent.

And even with growing public interest in fully-electric cars, they still represent only 2.9 per cent of new car sales, up from 2.5 per cent this time last year. Dealers point to a limited number of models currently on offer along with the relatively high price – even after taking account of €10,000 in grants and tax rebates – compared to equivalent non-electric rivals as contributory factors.

The growth in electric car sales has seen Tesla sales jump from just 13 in January 2019 to 56 last month, largely on the back of the arrival of its more affordable Model 3 all-electric saloon.

The best-selling brand in the electric car market, however, is Nissan, accounting for 298 of the 898 new car sales last month. It’s followed by Hyundai with 285 registrations and Kia with 141.

According to SIMI director general, Brian Cooke: “January is the most important selling month for new cars. In this regard, it is very disappointing to see a reduction in new car sales compared to January last year, the fourth consecutive year in which there has been a fall.”


Mr Cooke welcomed the 6 per cent drop in the average carbon emissions of the new cars registered last month. The average CO2 of new cars sold in January was 108.33g/km, down from 115.04 g/km this time last year.

“New cars ultimately displace the oldest most environmentally damaging cars in the national fleet and in order for Ireland to benefit fully from these technology improvements, the new car market needs to be much stronger than it currently is and government policy should support this,” he said. “January also saw a significant decline in used imports, and while it may be too early to tell, the introduction of the NOx charge from January 1st appears to have reduced demand for older used imports.”

Used car imports saw a 26.4 per cent decline in January, to 6,623, compared to the same month last year.

In the commercial vehicle market, new van sales were up 2.1 per cent on last year at 5,666 in January, while new registrations of heavy goods vehicles rose by 8.8 per cent to 385.