New car market is up 38 per cent after first quarter

According to official industry figures, 13,813 new cars were registered in March 2010, up 78 per cent on March 2009 (7,764 ).

So at this stage of 2010, after the crucial first quarter, the motor industry is now in a far stronger position than it was this time last year. New car sales are up 78 per cent in March which brings the year to date increase to 31 per cent.

This represents an Exchequer gain of €284 million (VAT and VRT ), a significant increase of €57 million compared to the same period last year. And the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI ) now expect their original forecast of 70,000 new cars for the year to be exceeded.

SIMI president Mike Finlay commented, “With new car sales on the increase month on month since the start of the year, we would hope that job losses will be a thing of the past and we can look forward to rehiring this year.”

Meanwhile, statistics from the Motorcheck.ie Car Index show that the reversal of last year’s trend of falling sales for the first quarter means that year-to-date statistics for the industry show passenger sales have increased 38 per cent from 31,064 to 42,795 on an overall basis. Ford continue to lead the new car market after the first three months, followed by Toyota and Volkswagen.

Commenting on the new trend, Motorcheck.ie director Shane Teskey says “A buoyant used car market encouraged car rental companies to sell their older cars and refresh their fleets with newly registered cars (hire drives ) in the first quarter this year. It appears that a significant number of these cars were registered in late March which would have supported the overall increase seen so far this year.”

‘Hire drives’ are vehicles that are registered specifically for car rental companies and normally return to the used car market after six or nine months on rental duty. Although accounting for a significant portion of new cars sold so far this year, the car rental industry is still experiencing a shortage of cars. Operators in the sector say the lack of available finance is a serious problem for car dealers who would normally supply much greater numbers of new cars to the rental industry.

“Banks that previously would have supported car dealers with short-term finance arrangements for hire drives are now running scared,” says Teskey. “One rental company informed Motorcheck that they registered at least 50 per cent less cars this year than last and could now be forced to rent older cars.”

Top of the table for ‘Manufacturer’ in March is Ford with 1,976 (14 per cent of the total market ) registrations. This represents an increase of 125 per cent for the manufacturer when compared with March of last year.

“These figures are very welcome for the industry,” said David O’Driscoll, sales director at Ford Ireland. “Clearly, they show the benefit of the Government scrappage scheme. With three quarters of the cars sold in March falling in the lowest CO2 VRT tax bands A and B, it highlights the green revolution that is transforming the Irish car market.”

With Fiesta and Focus the two top-selling cars in the country for 2010 (2,115 and 2,057 units respectively ), Ford also claimed more sales than any other brand in the ultra-low-emission A VRT band.

“We are also noticing an increased level of business in the fleet sector which is an encouraging sign for the economy as a whole,” said O’Driscoll.

Renault Ireland has been the star of the turn-around in new car sales with a solid 9 per cent of the overall car market in Ireland after the first quarter.

The Renault Megane is holding its ground as the second top selling diesel car while the popular Clio is also in second position in the best selling petrol models.

The Scenic remains the leader in its segment and with the launch of the new Renault Fluence this month, Renault hopes to continue this positive performance as the fourth best selling car brand in Ireland.

Eric Basset, managing director of Renault Ireland, said “We are very happy that Renault has been performing so well since the start of the year and we hope this will continue. The Renault scrappage offer to cars eight years and older has proven to be a success. The launch of the new Fluence, coupled with the extension of the Renault Scrappage Scheme until May 31, will hopefully play a part in the brand’s continuing success.”

Some other highlights

The Nissan Qashqai is the number one selling model for March with 773 units (an increase of 221 per cent on last year ) followed by the Ford Focus at 718 (an increase of 135 per cent on last year ).

Diesel continues to outsell petrol with 63 per cent (8,790 ) of new vehicles registered.

Over 76 per cent of all vehicles registered fall into the lower CO2 categories. Band A represents 4,550 vehicles with Band B totalling 6,120.

Silver and black continue to be the most popular colours (25 per cent and 24 per cent respectively ) and 58 per cent of all passenger vehicles registered falling into the body type category of hatch/ lift back.

Imported used car registrations for March, at 4,528, were down 23.64 per cent on the March 2009 figures.

Light commercial vehicle registrations for March 2010 (1,446 ) are up 40 per cent on March last year (1,031 ) while heavy vehicle registrations are up 51 per cent (130 ) compared to March 2009 (86 ).

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