The total number of new cars sold in 2019 fell by 6.8 per cent to 117,031 units compared to 2018. Interestingly, Skoda Ireland tells us it is projecting a slightly more optimistic result in 2020, with 120,000 passenger vehicle sales forecasted.
Despite this year’s decline, there is still a healthy appetite for vehicles, with 12.9 per cent more used car imports registered in 2019 compared to 2018. The biggest challenge for the industry over the last three years was the staggering 307,900 used imports that indirectly affected the new car market.
With the introduction of the new government NOx tax from January 1, a Skoda Ireland spokesman says used imports will not be as advantageous now. An example is a 2016 Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 4x4 170bhp. Regardless of purchase price and excluding currency fluctuations, it claims this vehicle is subject to a further €2,400 NOx Tax in addition to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT ). This is likely to increase the cost significantly of importing a used vehicle.
In the last 12 months the sale of electric vehicles has increased nearly threefold. Some 3,443 Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs ) were delivered in 2019 compared to 1,233 in the same period last year.
Skoda claims the demand for BEVs will increase in line with consumer awareness of climate change and new model introductions from various brands. However, driving range and affordability are also key, and the introduction of 2020 Irish Car of the Year, the Kia Soul (and also the Kia Niro ) last year are examples of making the proposition more attractive.
However for now, diesel powered vehicles still dominate, accounting for 47 per cent of all vehicle sales in 2019 with 54,505 customers opting for diesel in 2019.
Skoda also claims that petrol and diesel vehicles will likely account for 85 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2020 as a result of electric vehicle technology, especially battery range, still in development and infrastructure roll-out.
Plug in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs ) are seen by some as a stepping stone to an electric future and provide the best of both worlds, with the ability to drive on pure electric power in isolation - or in combination with a modern petrol engine. PHEVs have also seen significant growth in the last year with 1,343 vehicles delivered in 2019, an increase of 85 per cent on the same period last year. Skoda Ireland is predicting further PHEV sales growth in 2020, and it points to 250 deliveries alone planned of its own new Superb iV PHEV.
Automatic transmissions were once exclusive to premium vehicles, but are now becoming much more prevalent in the Irish market. Between 2016 and 2019 automatic vehicle sales have grown by 55 per cent to 38,705 units last year. One in three new cars sold in 2019 was an automatic. Skoda saysthis growth can be attributed to changing customer behaviour and improved transmission technologies, such as the efficient seven-speed DSG automatics offered in their vehicles.
Colour trends have changed little in the last year. The most popular vehicle colour of 2019 by a considerable margin was grey (43,495 ) followed by black (21,010 ). However, colour trends have changed over time. White, for example, remains a opular colour, with 17,353 vehicles delivered in 2019 - an incredible 2,205 per cent increase compared to a decade ago when only 753 customers purchased a white vehicle in 2009.
Commenting on 2019, John Donegan, brand director of Skoda Ireland, said the industry was changing at a faster pace than ever before.
"Electrification, digitalisation and alternative mobility solutions will provide challenges and opportunities for our brand in the coming years.”