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Brexit blamed for drop in new car sales

More than 32,000 new cars were registered in January, a 12.6% reduction on the same period last year.

shutterstock_316752860 Shutterstock / Africa Studio Shutterstock / Africa Studio / Africa Studio

SALES OF NEW cars in January were down almost 13%, compared with the same month last year.

There were 32,374 191 car registrations last month, down from 37,023 in January 2018 – a 12.6% reduction – according to figures released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) today.

Sales of Light Commercial Vehicles (vans) were down 16.3% (5,650) compared with January last year (6,753), and HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) registrations were down 11.4% (356) in comparison to January 2018 (402).

There were monthly declines in new car registration figures last year, something SIMI puts down to “the substantial impact of Brexit”.

Used car imports in 2018 reached the highest level on record – 100,755 – accounting for 44.5% of the total car market in 2018. Used car imports for January 2019 (9,006) saw a very slight decrease 0.6% on January 2018 (9,061).

Electric vehicle registrations increased significantly with 811 registrations in January 2019, which is more than for the whole of 2017 and over 60% of the total for the whole of last year.

engines SIMI SIMI

While electric vehicle numbers are still relatively low, they are showing strong growth – increasing from less than 1% of the market last year to a 2.6% market share in January this year.

Diesel continues to be the market leader in 2019 with a 49% share, despite an 8% decline on January 2018. Petrol has grown to 40% and hybrids currently account for 7% of the new car market.

Top five 

The top five most popular car brands were Hyundai (3,815 units, down from 3,925), Volkswagen (3,224, down from 3,580), Ford (3,156, down from 3,732), Toyota (2,815, down from 4,380) and Nissan (2,639, down from 2,870). 


Jim Power, economist and author of the SIMI Report, said, based on these figures, the annual new car market could decline from 125,422 to around 110,000, a decline of 12.3%. He added that used imports look set to reduce marginally to around 98,000.

“However, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, sales would be weaker, and in the event of a deal and the removal of uncertainty, sales could match 2018. In overall terms, the coming months are likely to be characterised by deep uncertainty,” Power said.

Brian Cooke, Director General Designate of SIMI, said the figures are “clearly disappointing but not surprising”.

He also noted the impact of Brexit and a weak Sterling, stating: “While we hope the EU and UK’s negotiations result in agreement that allows for free trade, the likelihood of no deal is increasing by the day.”

Cooke said the motor industry is “ramping up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit”, adding that it is crucial the State “fully clarifies the trading conditions in the event of no agreement being reached”.

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