New car sales plummeted last year to recession-era levels

Toyota Corolla is still Ireland’s top selling car but industry forecasts ‘difficult’ start to 2021

New car sales fell by 25 per cent in 2020, down to recession era levels, as the industry struggled in a “very difficult” year. And given the deterioration in Covid-19 in recent weeks, the outlook for 2021 remains “challenged”.

Figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that total car registrations finished at 88,324 for 2020, down by 25 per cent on 2019 when 117,109 were registered.

There was a similar decline in new heavy commercial vehicle registrations of 22.3 per cent, but a more muted decline in light commercial vehicles, which saw a decrease of 14.2 per cent to 21,732 registrations.

The biggest decline was seen in hire cars, with registrations plummeting 84 per cent to 2,917.

Dublin saw the biggest decline in new car sales, which fell 34 per cent year on year to 34,211.

The only county where sales grew was Leitrim, although the increase of 1 per cent represented the sale of just four additional cars, bringing total sales there to 397.

Imports of second hand cars plummeted 30 per cent to 79,969, although new electric cars rose from 3,444 in 2019 to 4,013.

Brian Cooke, SIMI director general, said 2020 was a "very difficult year" for the Irish motor industry as new car sales fell to recession levels. Given the dramatic deterioration in Covid-19 over the last few weeks, and the resulting implementation of Level 5 restrictions, Mr Cooke expects "another difficult period for the sector".

“Dealerships remain open for service, repair and testing, which are essential services, and the industry will continue to play an important role in assisting emergency and essential services,” he said, adding that car sales would operate on a click and collect service.

Popular cars

The hatchback remained Ireland’s top selling car body type in 2020, while grey is still the most popular colour – as it has been for the past five years.

When it comes to car brands Volkswagen was the biggest seller, followed by Toyota, Hyundai, Skoda, and Ford.

The top selling car was the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Focus and Hyundai Kona.

Diesel remains the most popular engine type, while hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid gained market share in 2020.

Electric cars now have a 4.5 per cent market share, compared with 2.9 per cent in 2019.