Demand for new cars grows in May - but market still suffering
DEMAND for new cars in Northern Ireland grew by six per cent last month - almost twice as much as the UK as a whole, where registrations lifted by 3.6 per cent.
Some 4,384 new cars were registered in May compared with 4,136 during the same month in 2017, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), as buyers are finally heading back to the forecourts.
But the overall market is still 3.4 per cent off where it was this time last year, with just 25,491 cars having been sold against 26,401 by May 2017.
The monthly recovery is seen as a glimmer of hope for the car industry, which is facing a growing crisis given that sales of diesel cars are slumping
There has been growing concern about the impact of diesel car emissions on air quality and uncertainty about what taxes and restrictions will be introduced in relation to the vehicles.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "May's growth, albeit on the back of large declines last year, is encouraging and suggests the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate.
"To ensure long-term stability, we need to avoid any further disruption to the market, and this will require sustainable policies that give consumers and businesses the confidence to invest in the new cars that best suit their needs.
"Fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, and this applies to hybrid and plug-in technologies as well as the latest low emission petrol and diesels which, for many drivers, remain the right choice economically and environmentally."
Alex Buttle, director at car buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: "Both petrol and alternative fuel vehicle new registrations were up substantially last month and it's dire diesel sales that continue to massively skew overall figures.
"Take diesel out of the equation, and the picture doesn't look quite so grim. But May is the 11th consecutive month in which diesel sales have been down more than 20 per cent.
"The car industry's efforts to promote the benefits of Euro 6 diesel cars are clearly not resonating with consumers, and it's difficult to see how confidence can be restored.
"The knock-on effect is that our roads are going to be clogged up with older, more polluting diesel cars. We have seen this in buoyant used car figures.
"And we expect to see a further boost in used car sales until this widespread confusion is alleviated, as people who want to upgrade their old motors are more likely to look for good value diesel or petrol cars in the second hand car market."
Meanwhile there was bad news for drivers in May as the price of petrol at the pumps rocketed by 6p a litre - the worst monthly rise for 18 years.
According to data from RAC Fuel Watch, unleaded shot up from 123.43p to 129.41p a litre, putting the cost of filling up a 55-litre family car to £71.18.
The average price diesel per litre saw a slightly greater monthly increase of 6.12p, from 126.27p to 132.39p, which was the second worst rise since the start of 2000.
Top 10 best-sellers among new cars sold in Northern Ireland in May were:
1 Ford Focus
2 Ford Kuga
3 Volkswagen Golf
4 Hyundai Tucson
5 Ford Fiesta
6 Volkswagen Polo
7 Nissan Qashqai
8 Skoda Fabia
9 Volkswagen Tiguan
10 Skoda Octavia