The fall in the registrations of new cars in Ireland has flattened out somewhat - sales for the year to date are down on the same period in 2020, but only by 3.2 per cent. While that is still 24 per cent down on Q1 2019, it must be seen as something of a victory, considering that dealers have only been able to do 'click-and-deliver' sales so far this year.
Improvement on March 2020, but that wouldn't be hard...
For the month of March, registrations were up 54 per cent compared to March 2020, but then again, we all know what happened in March 2020... Compared to March 2019, registrations this March were down by 44 per cent.
According to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), the figures mean that in the first quarter of the year, the Irish car industry has lost some €500 million worth of sales, if you compare it to the first quarter of 2019.
Brian Cooke, SIMI Director General commenting: "With dealers still able to operate on a click and deliver basis, new car sales are only marginally back on last year. However, this does not tell the real story. The first quarter of each year is the key selling period for the Irish Motor Industry, and new car sales in Q1 when compared to the same period in pre-COVID 2019 are down 25 per cent, or nearly 16,000 cars. This represents lost revenue to the sector in excess of €500 million and lost taxation to the Exchequer of €170 million. With the lockdown now extended into April, the Industry will struggle to make up this lost business. In this context and in light of dealers' ability to transact in a low risk outdoor environment, it is vital that we do re-open at the start of May to allow dealers sell both new and used cars, and to protect local employment. On a more positive note, it is encouraging to see the increases in the sale of Electric Cars and PHEVs despite the restricted trading environment."
EV sales trebled compared to last March
Once again, electric vehicles provided one of the brighter spots in the industry, with EV registrations reaching 1,046 in March, compared to 369 in March 2020. So far this year 2,831 new electric cars have been registered in comparison to 1,650 on the same period 2020. Electric vehicle and plug-in hybrids continue to increase their market share, with their combined market share now over 11 per cent. Diesel now accounts for 36.58 per cent, Petrol 32.68 per cent, Hybrid 17.04 per cent, Electric 5.87 per cent and Plug-in Electric Hybrid 5.51 per cent.
Indeed, Toyota Ireland, looking at the same figures, said that there is now a distinct move away from diesel power and towards hybrid. Steve Tormey, CEO of Toyota Ireland, said: "It's really promising to see the continued growth in popularity in self-charging hybrids, which have seen impressive year on year percentage gains and now accounts for nearly one in five car sales in 2021. We are pleased to see the natural move away from traditional petrol and diesel cars into self-charging hybrids, that require no behavioural change from drivers. With hybrid, we are making things easier for motorists to make a difference in helping Ireland reach its Climate Action Plan targets. With new models like the recently awarded Yaris - the European Car of the Year 2021 - that drives in zero-emissions mode for up to 80 per cent of the time in urban settings, we believe self-charging hybrids hold a vital role in improving our environmental outlook well into the future. The next step is to seriously address the issue of diesel passenger cars and their negative impact on human health, which countless studies have proven. We'd like to see further changes to our tax system to help incentivise customers to move from diesel towards electrified options, like self-charging hybrids which have ultra-low NOX emissions."
Imports actually up slightly
Oddly, used car imports were up - by 25.61 per cent on 2020 (4,651) but that may be a false positive, given that they showed a decrease of 34.87 per cent (8,970) on March 2019. Year to date imports are up 5.46 per cent (18,420) on 2020 (17,466) - something of a surprise given the new VAT charged - and down 31.35 per cent (26,832) on 2019.
Toyota remains the best-selling brand in the country, followed by Volkswagen, Hyundai, Skoda and Ford.
March's best-seller was the new all-electric Volkswagen ID.4, and indeed Volkswagen claimed the overall market lead in electric cars for the year to date, thanks to continued strong sales of the ID.3. However, the Nissan Leaf was actually the best-selling single electric model overall - with 445 sales to the end of March, it was just in front of the Volkswagen ID.4 on 411 sales.
"We are delighted that the Nissan Leaf continues to be the number one selling EV in Ireland, a position that it has made its own since we launched the car over a decade ago," said Seamus Morgan, Managing Director of Nissan Ireland. It is clear that the growing number of motorists who are now making the switch to EV driving value Nissan's expertise as EV leaders and that they also recognise the Nissan Leaf as the best EV on the market."