Car sales in reverse as lowest January figures reported for six years

The Volkswagen Golf was the most popular car model purchased in Northern Ireland last month
Gareth McKeown

CAR sales in January stalled to their lowest level in six years, according to new industry data.

The latest SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) figures show that 5,660 new cars were sold in the north last month, a 6 per cent fall on January 2018.

The total is 15 per cent down on the post-recession January-high in 2014 and almost a third below the record 8,154 sales reported in 2007.

The Volkswagen Golf was the most popular model last month, with 191 sold, closely by the Ford Fiesta (181). The Hyundai Tucson (175) rounded off the top three.

Ulster Bank chief economist, Richard Ramsey said the early signs are not promising for the local car sales market in 2019.

"2019 may be the year of the pig in the Chinese calendar, but it doesn't look like it will be the year of the new car, " he said.

"New car sales, traditionally viewed as a key barometer of consumer confidence, have been at best flat or falling in each of the last four years.

"Clearly this is not a ringing endorsement of consumer confidence. In 2018 there were 90 fewer new cars sold each week than in 2014 and over 300 fewer per week relative to 2007."

"Overall, Northern Ireland new car sales are 24 per cent below their 2007 pre-downturn high. In contrast, sales in England are on a par with 2007 levels while new car sales in Scotland and Wales are below 2007 levels by 7 per cent and 9 per cent respectively," Mr Ramsey added.

Across the UK just over 161,000 new cars were registered in January, 1.6 per cent lower than the same month last year following a big fall in demand from business and fleet buyers.

However, the SMMT reported a 26 per cent increase in sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid models, with petrol versions rising by 7 per cent.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive said: "It's encouraging to see car registrations in January broadly on par with a year ago as the latest high tech models and deals attracted buyers into showrooms.

"This, however, is still the fifth consecutive month of overall decline in the market."

Top 10 New Car Registrations in Northern Ireland

1 Volkswagen Golf 191

2 Ford Fiesta 182

3 HyundaiTucson 175

4 Seat Ibiza 160

5 Nissan Qashqai 139

6 Ford Focus 127

7 Kia Sportage 118

8 Toyota C-HR 113

9 Volkswagen Polo 112

10 Volkswagen Tiguan 108

Total top 10 1,425

Northern Ireland grand total 5,660

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