Confidence boosts new car sales

Commercial and private vehicle sales are up on last year but still behind 2012

Hyundai ix35: the bestselling model of the year so far

Hyundai ix35: the bestselling model of the year so far


Provisional new-car sales figures for the first days of 2014 trading suggest dealers are benefitting from a rise in consumer confidence. Many dealers ended 2013 with orders well ahead of previous years, and this positive sentiment seems to have continued into the new year.

According to Motorcheck, five of the 10 bestselling makes are already ahead of their equivalent 2013 figures.

Toyota is currently the leading brand, followed by Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford and Kia.

The bestselling model was the Hyundai ix35, with 218 sold, followed by the VW Golf, at 171, the Kia Sportage, with 163, and the Toyota Yaris, at 158. Just over 4,000 cars had been registered by Monday morning.

“Business is up massively for us,” says Graham Browne of McConnell Brothers Toyota, in Waterford. “We’ve sold 10 times the number of cars coming into January than we had last year. Business is taking a complete change. I think a lot of it is to do with people becoming used to the new number-plate system. You could see last year that there were a lot of people who held off in January to wait for July, but who got to July and went, ‘Ah well, I may as well wait again.’ That meant that retail sales in July last year were a joke, but I think we’re seeing some of the benefit of that pent-up demand now.

“I think January, February and March will still be the big months, though, and that’s been helped by the budget being in October. People knew better what was coming, so they were able to plan ahead.”

This view is shared at Hutton & Meade in Dublin, where Jonathan Meade says that “there’s still a good sense of positivity in the air from both customers and salespeople. We got in early because people had ordered early, so we had cars going out on January 2nd. Thankfully the bad weather doesn’t seem to have affected us yet, at least in terms of deliveries, and we’ve had no cancellations.

“There was big rise in preorders before Christmas, which will give a good kick to the first few days’ figures, and then after that you’ll see a slight drop-off.

“For us personally, with both Nissan and Hyundai, I think we’ll get a better bite at 142 [plates, from July], with new models coming along, so we’ll probably see more growth in the second half of the year.”

Things are definitely looking up
Volkswagen finished on top of the Irish car market in 2013 for the second year in succession. Managing director Simon Elliott says that, “for us, things are definitely looking up. All five of our brands are ahead of the target we set for our order banks coming into January. From my point of view – more importantly for the economy at large – we’re seeing a big rise in sales of commercial vehicles. Even taking out the sorts of big corporate orders for the likes of An Post or Guinness, we’re seeing van orders around three times higher than they were at this time last year.

“To put it in context, we sold 2,000 VW commercial vehicles in the whole of 2013, and already we’re approaching 1,000 sales and orders this year. And this, as I say, is not down to big corporate orders: it’s going through our dealers and it’s local businesses renewing their vehicles.”

Des Cannon, managing director of Gowan Distributors, the importer for Peugeot, says: “There is a most definite upturn in both the passenger-car market and the light-commercial-vehicle market, based on the very first few days’ registrations in January and despite the poor weather.

“Our pre-Christmas order book showed strong growth year on year, to its highest peak in over five years, and that momentum has continued into January, with dealers reporting further showroom visits, more deals being done and strong demand.”

Injecting a note of caution, Michael Rochford of Motorcheck warns against reading too much into such short-term figures. “There is still a long way to go, as we are 21.45 per cent behind the same period for 2012. This may be a consequence of the dual-reg system, and only time will tell if an even greater proportion of new-car registrations happen in the second half of 2014.

“Last year 28 per cent of all registrations happened in the second half of the year, compared against only 16 per cent in 2012. If this trend continues the market may see stronger sales in the second half of 2014.”