New car sales have dropped dramatically as attention turns to social distancing and new hygiene measures in dealerships
New car sales have dropped dramatically as attention turns to social distancing and new hygiene measures in dealerships

New car registrations have taken a dramatic nose dive in April 2020 as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. According to new figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), new car registrations for April declined 96.1%. Just 344 new cars changed hands, versus 8,904 in April last year.

We reported last month how new car registrations were down 63% as Coronavirus disrupted business and the wider motor industry. Dealer showrooms have been closed now since March, impacting heavily on sales. Registrations year to date are down 30.7% (50,626) on the same period last year (73,030).

The commercial vehicle sector is also feeling the impact of closures, with light commercials vehicles (LCV) down 87.3% (229) compared to April last year (1,799) and year to date are down 25.3% (9,603). HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) registrations are down 67.8% (98) in comparison to April 2019 (304). Year to date HGVs are down 9.9% (1,070).

Used car imports for April (199) saw a decrease of 97.8% on April 2019 (8,887). While year to date imports are down 50.5% (17,669) on 2019 (35,719).

Year to date the top five bestselling brands in Ireland are 1. Toyota 2. Volkswagen 3. Hyundai 4. Skoda and 5. Ford. The bestselling models so far in 2020 are 1. Toyota Corolla 2. Hyundai Tucson 3. Volkswagen Tiguan 4. Ford Focus and 5. Skoda Octavia.

The market share by engine type is: Diesel 43.92%, Petrol 38.05%, Hybrid 12.33%, Electric 3.37% and Plug-In Hybrid 2.06%.

Brian Cooke, SIMI Director General, said:

“Like many other sectors of the economy, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the Irish Motor Industry. SIMI Members have during the course of the lockdown to date, been available to assist in emergency and essential call outs. We continue to play our part in keeping vital goods and services moving.

However, the registration numbers underline the lack of activity in new vehicle sales, and this is replicated for used cars and servicing. While the short-term outlook for the Irish economy is bleak, once the health situation allows, the Motor Industry is ready to get back to work. Members have used this downtime to implement measures, in accordance with both Industry and State guidelines, that will protect both their employees and customers against the spread of COVID-19. The size of dealerships and the average footfall, for both sales and servicing, lends itself to social distancing. While sanitisation measures being put in place for both premises and vehicles, means that safety and protection are at the top of the agenda.

With the July registration period approaching, the Motor Industry will be well placed to help start activity in the Irish economy. This has the potential to protect the nearly 50,000 people in employment in the sector, increasing Government Revenues, improving the safety of the cars on Irish roads, while also improving Ireland’s environmental performance by replacing old cars with new or newer cars. In this context, continuation of the current supports and cash flow benefits from Revenue will be important, while additional measures such as the cancelling of rates bills, and reductions in VAT and VRT would be very helpful as would the immediate re-opening of NCT and commercial vehicle test centres.”

This week we reported how the Opel dealer network is preparing to reopen with new hygiene and safety measures. Renault Ireland also announced an ambitious new 202 offers campaign to restart sales for their Renault and Dacia brands.

Elsewhere, brands have been contributing to Ireland’s efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and support frontline staff. This week, SEAT Ireland announced it has supplied The Mater Hospital with a fleet of SEAT Alhambras as well as SEAT eXS KickScooters to assist frontline healthcare workers and patients during the COVID-19 crisis.