The motor industry is now in a far stronger position than it was this time last year, according to recently released figures for new car registrations.
In March some 13, 800 new cars were registered - up 78 per cent on March last year, helping an overall increase of 31 per cent for the first three months of this year.
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 SIMI now expects the 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 the reverse 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 continues 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 blame the lack of available finance as a serious problem for car dealers that 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 it 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,” says 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 the 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,” says O’Driscoll.
Renault Ireland has been the star of the turn-around in new car sales with a solid nine 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, says: “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 ccheme until May 31, will hopefully play a part in the brand’s continuing success.”22