December 17, 2018

What’s Ireland Buying?

A review of the Irish new car market

What preferences are Irish car buyers showing in the new car market so far in 2018?
What preferences are Irish car buyers showing in the new car market so far in 2018?

This feature first appeared in the October issue of Forecourt News, the magazine of the Irish Petrol Retailers’ Association (IPRA). 

Sales of SUVs, petrol cars and hybrids show growth amidst the backdrop of a contracting new car market in Ireland in 2018, writes Caroline Kidd.

In August, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) released their Second Quarterly Motor Review prepared by economist Jim Power. The report gives an overview and analysis of the new car market in Ireland in the first six months of 2018. It highlights that despite Ireland’s economic indicators pointing towards an expanding economy with consumer spending continuing to improve steadily, the depreciation in the value of sterling since the end of 2015 has made life more difficult for the Irish motor trade.

Industry experts cite used car imports from the UK as the reason for falling sales of new cars here. Total new car registrations for this year are already being forecast at around 125,000, which would represent a decline of 4.8% on the total number of cars registered in Ireland in 2017. In contrast, the used import market is expected to grow by around 12% in 2018 to reach 104,660 cars.

Yet it’s not all doom and gloom and there are still plenty of new cars being bought here, with sales of SUVs, petrol cars and hybrids showing the most growth in the first half of 2018. Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Nissan hold the lion’s share in sales of new passenger cars and together these brands accounted for 46.29% of new car registrations in the first six months of 2018.

2018 has also seen a tussle between the Hyundai Tucson and the Nissan Qashqai for the title of Ireland’s bestselling car. The Nissan Qashqai was Ireland’s bestselling car up to the end of June 2018, but the Tucson recovered some ground in July to overtake the Qashqai, and by the time you read this there could be a change at the top again!

Whether it’s the Tucson or Qashqai on top, the fact remains that like our European neighbours, our preferences are changing from traditional hatchbacks and saloons, to SUVs and crossovers. While hatchbacks and saloons still make up just under 50% of the new car market – and the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia remain among Ireland’s bestselling cars – sales of these vehicles are shrinking year on year.

Sales of SUVs are booming, with brands like Peugeot really enjoying their popularity
Sales of SUVs are booming, with brands like Peugeot really enjoying their popularity

And with SUVs already showing over 34% growth this year, it would appear that this is where buyers are going. Manufacturers are responding with more and more new SUV models, particularly among the B- and C-segment.

One brand riding the current wave of interest in SUVs is Peugeot. The French brand recorded the strongest growth in the Irish new car market at +53% for the first six months of 2018. Peugeot Ireland contributes sales of their Peugeot 2008, 3008 and 5008 SUVs to the brand’s change in fortunes.

In the last issue of Forecourt News, we reported the resurgence in sales of petrol cars, and the latest new car registrations data shows that the trend away from diesel towards petrol is continuing. In the first half of 2018, diesel cars accounted for 55.47% of total new registrations, down from 66.02% in the first half of 2017. Petrol cars accounted for 38.02% of the total, up from 30.24% in the first half of 2017. Petrol electric hybrids accounted for 5.4% of the total, up from 3.15% in the first half of 2017. 529 electric cars were registered in the first half of the year, which is 41.4% higher than the first half of 2017.

On a lighter note, grey is the most popular car colour in Ireland in 2018, followed by black and white. Interestingly, there has been a significant increase in the number of orange cars registered in 2018, up over 200%!

Looking forward to the second half of 2018, the SIMI report predicts that the economic fundamentals that underpin new car registrations look set to remain positive, but continued strong growth in used imports will continue to undermine new car sales. Typically new car registrations dwindle towards the end of the year anyway, but with plenty of new models on the way between now and the end of the year, the new 191 registration plate is already in sight.

Sales of orange cars have increased this year - like this Volkswagen Polo
Sales of orange cars have increased this year – like this Volkswagen Polo

Caroline Kidd is a motoring journalist and jury member for Irish Car of the Year. She is the editor of Changing Lanes, one of Ireland’s leading motoring blogs. Visit her blog at www.changinglanes.ie.