New car registrations down in first three months

New car registrations for the first quarter are down -5.5 per cent (71,805 ) compared to the first quarter of last year (75,982 ), according to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.

New light commercial vehicle (LCV ) registrations were up 5.3 per cent (12,529 ) when compared to last year (11,900 ), while new heavy commercial vehicles (HGV ) have declined 11.2 per cent (916 ) year to date.

Meanwhile, imported used cars in the year to date are 9.5 per cent (26,116 ) ahead of 2017 (23,862 ).

The SIMI Report shows that in the first quarter of 2018 new diesel registrations accounted for 56.3 per cent of the market - a decline from 66.7 per cent on quarter one last year - while petrol accounted for 37.5 per cent of the total - up from 29.6 per cent on Q1 of 2017.

Average CO2 emissions for new cars sold were 1.4 per cent higher in the first quarter of 2018 when compared to a year earlier. The recent move away from diesel to petrol has resulted in average CO2 emissions now trending upwards again after a prolonged period of desirable decline.

The report also highlights a number of price decreases in the cost of motoring. The average price of a new car in Q1 2018 was 1.9 per cent lower than a year earlier; interestingly consumers are spending more on higher specification cars with the average OMSP (open market sales price ) up 4.1 per cent on Q1 last year. The cost of Motor Insurance in March 2018 was 13.8 per cent lower than it was a year earlier, but average motor insurance costs in March were 37 per cent higher than in March 2013. While the cost of fuel decreased slightly in Q1 of 2018 with petrol prices down 0.7 per cent and diesel prices down 0.5 per cent last year.

For 2018 new car registrations are forecast to reach around 120,000 which would represent a decline of 8.6 per cent on 2017 while used car imports by contrast are projected to grow by around 15 per cent to reach 107,470. Similar to last year, Brexit related uncertainty looks set to continue, largely due to the uncertain performance of sterling and the impact of used imports from Britain.

Jim Power, economist and author of the SIMI Report, says it is clear Brexit uncertainty and used imports from Britain continue to exert pressure on the domestic new car market.

“Looking forward to the remainder of 2018, the other economic fundamentals that underpin new car registrations look set to remain positive.”

Used imports from Britain, though, are likely to remain a significant feature of the market and will undoubtedly displace new car sales once again. The surge in used imports from Britain effectively means that UK used car values are directly impacting on the values of domestic second-hand car stock, and this is making the cost of change to a new car more expensive which is also serving to undermine new car sales.”

Alan Nolan, director general of the SIMI, says the further fall in new car sales this year could not have come at a worse time.

“From an environmental viewpoint, just as we are beginning to benefit from a wider range of electric and hybrid cars, at the very start of our transition to 2045 when it is projected that the entire fleet should be zero emitting. The fall in Irish used car values due to the huge increase in imported used car volumes, as a knock-on from the weakening of sterling resulting from Brexit, has made the cost to trade-up more expensive and has slowed-down our new car sales.

“It is crucially important that our used car values, and particularly diesels which represent 70 per cent of our newest used cars, remain high, Brexit notwithstanding, as trade-in values will be key in ensuring that we can deliver on improving our future carbon and air quality performance from transport.”

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