New car sales in Northern Ireland stuck in the slow lane
SALES of new cars in Northern Ireland dropped back in 2015 after three years of consecutive growth - despite overall UK registrations revving to an all-time high.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said 2.63 million cars were registered in the UK last year, which was up 6.3 per cent on the previous 12 months.
But in Northern Ireland more than 100 fewer vehicles left showrooms than in 2014, with 57,097 new registrations compared to 57,202 a year earlier.
Ford vehicles were the best sellers in the north last year, with the Fiesta topping the list (2,407), ahead of the Focus (1,713) in third place in the top ten.
Making up the top five models were the Volkswagen Golf (1,856) and Polo (1,587) and Vauxhall Corsa (1,456).
And new models into this year's top 10 in Northern Ireland were the Vauxhall Mokka, Ford Kuga and Renault Captur.
The flat market has come as a disappointment - though not a surprise - to dealers in the north.
Daniel Daly, a director at Daly's Garage, one of Belfast's longest serving car dealerships, said: "The entire industry here is fishing from a much smaller private retail pool that in Britain, where they can do massive fleet deals, and where their number-plate system creates artificial peaks at certain times of the year.
"Everything had been pointing to a flat market here, given the high number of people employed in the public sector, where there is uncertainty over jobs, and the economy in Northern Ireland seems to have been slower to recover."
And Mr Daly added that he expects sales in 2016 to be "comparatively stable".
Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey said that 2015 was a good year for household finances, with falling food and energy prices, coupled with a return of pay rises, boosting disposable incomes, the north's car market was stuck at the back of the grid.
"Northern Ireland has been experiencing a retail mini-boom of sorts during recent months but local car showrooms appear to have been left out of the party as sales remain in the slow lane,” he said.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said high consumer confidence, wage growth and low-interest finance deals have encouraged motorists to buy new cars in general.
But while there was growth in England (up 7.39 per cent) and Wales (up 2.53 per cent), it was disappointing that the trend was downwards in both Scotland (- 0.46 per cent) and Northern Ireland (- 0.18 per cent).
In the UK as a whole, 2.62 million cars were registered in 2015. The previous record was set in 2003 at 2.58 million. And it means car sales have exceeded their pre-recession levels after dipping below two million in both 2009 and 2011.
At the high-end range of the market, Porsche sales were up a third last year while there were also double-digit percentage rises for Jaguar (up 30 per cent), Maserati (up 20 per cent) and Aston Martin (up 10 per cent).
:: These are the annual new car registration statistics for Northern Ireland in recent years:
• 2004 - 65,898
• 2005 - 64,881
• 2006 - 65,024
• 2007 - 68,708
• 2008 - 56,688
• 2009 - 52,061
• 2010 - 53,489
• 2011 - 47,229
• 2012 - 47,519
• 2013 - 52,460
• 2014 - 57,202
• 2015 - 57,097
:: These were the best-selling 10 models in Northern Ireland during 2015:
1 Ford Fiesta
2 Volkswagen Golf
3 Ford Focus
4 Volkswagen Polo
5 Vauxhall Corsa
6 Nissan Qashqai
7 Vauxhall Mokka
8 Ford Kuga
9 Renault Clio
10 Renault Captur