New car sales fall 16% in first quarter

At current rate of sales, this would be worst year for new car sales since 2009

Car dealers are hoping for another chance to recover sales when the 131 number plate changes to 132 in July as part of the new registration system. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Car dealers are hoping for another chance to recover sales when the 131 number plate changes to 132 in July as part of the new registration system. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

 


New car sales fell 15.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the first three months of last year. A total of to 45,840 have been registered with the new 131 number plate system.

Sales in March were just 10,843, down 16.9 per cent compared to the same month last year, according to the latest figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.


Double-digit drop
At the current rate of sales, this would be the worst year for new car sales since 2009, when just 57,118 were sold. Every county has recorded a double-digit drop in sales, with the Border and midland counties particularly hard hit.

While registrations in Dublin fell just 10 per cent, in Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Offaly sales have fallen by more than 30 per cent.

However, dealers are hoping for another chance to recover sales when the 131 number plate changes to 132 in July as part of the new registration system.

Paddy Comyn of Volkswagen Group Ireland said: “This is a challenging year but we are still cautiously optimistic that the new registration system will give the market a new lease of life mid-year with the 132 number plate.

“There is probably still more work to be done to educate buyers about the second plate and buyer behaviour takes some time to change.”

Volkswagen remains the best-selling car brand with 4,666 registrations, giving it a 12.07 per cent share of the market. Toyota holds second place with 4,108 registrations, ahead of Ford with 3,712.

All of the top three brands recorded a decline in sales of between 17 and 30 per cent compared to last year. Other brands to record significant falls in sales include Renault, down 47.4 per cent with 1,801 registrations, and Fiat, down 69 per cent, with just 184 registrations during the first three months of this year.

One of the few brands to buck the downward trend is Hyundai, now the fifth-biggest brand on the market with 3,052 registrations, up 14 per cent on last year. Seat also performed strongly with sales of 1,133, nearly double the number of new registrations it had in the first quarter of 2012.

Diesel models
Irish new car buyers are still predominately opting for diesel models, representing 72 per cent of new registrations compared to 27.3 per cent for petrol.

Meanwhile, just 13 electric cars have been registered in the first three months, one fewer than the number of new Porsches sold in Ireland this year.

At the premium end of the market, Audi has taken a substantial lead with 2,023 new car registrations, up 8.7 per cent on the same period last year and well ahead of BMW, which recorded a fall of 8 per cent so far this year to 1,622.