New car sales down 3.8% as used imports threaten to catch up

Low sterling exchange rates and fears over EU emissions tests driving used import sales

The number of imported used cars registered for the first time in the Republic reached 68,784 at the end of last month, up 10.7 per cent on last year. Photograph: David Hecker/Getty Images

The number of imported used cars registered for the first time in the Republic reached 68,784 at the end of last month, up 10.7 per cent on last year. Photograph: David Hecker/Getty Images

 

New car sales in August were up 3.5 per cent on last year, with 5,932 new registrations. It brings the total so far this year to 119,937, a fall of 3.8 per cent on the same period in 2017.

Figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) also show the number of imported used cars registered for the first time in the Republic reached 68,784 at the end of last month, up 10.7 per cent on last year.

SIMI director-general Alan Nolan said that while the economic fundamentals that underpin new car registrations remain positive, “strong growth” in used imports would continue to “undermine” new car sales.

“For businesses in the sector, the impact of low sterling exchange rates, due to Brexit, will have driven used car imports to levels close to the new car sales total by the end of this year, with consequences for the State in terms of tax revenues and the environment, as the combined VAT and VRT receipts on imported used cars are significantly less than from new car sales, and their average emissions are higher.”

Further challenges

Mr Nolan said the motor trade faced further challenges with the introduction of new EU regulations for testing emissions and fuel economy figures for new cars.

An interim version of the so-called WLTP (Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure) came into effect from September 1st and will result in price rises for several models of new cars. Further changes are due to come into force next year.

“While there is not enough data available to be precise, indications are that CO2 values may increase by up to 10 per cent in 2019 and perhaps by a further 19 per cent in 2020 as we move to the full WLTP system,” said Mr Nolan.

“If there is not an appropriate adjustment to the VRT bands to offset the increased emissions values under the new test, in October’s budget, then the improvements in emissions testing will simply deliver increased taxation and higher prices for the consumer. As a result, new car sales will be further eroded which again impacts on businesses, on State revenues and on the environment.”

The bestselling car brands so far this year are: Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Nissan. The Hyundai Tucson remains the bestselling car on the market, followed by the Nissan Qashqai and VW Golf.

The latest figures show electric car sales continue to grow, up 102.3 per cent on last year, albeit on just 1,078 registrations.