Irish car sales worst in EU as weak sterling sees imports soar 60pc
The Irish car market is the only one in the EU to substantially decline in the first three months of the year, according to new figures.
Sales of Irish passenger cars decreased by 8.3pc in the first quarter of the year compared to the first three months of 2016, data released by the European Automotive Manufacturer's Association showed.
The number of new cars registered between January and the end of March was 75,939, down from 82,824 during the same period last year.
The contractionary figures for Ireland are in stark contrast to the EU as a whole, which posted an overall rise of 8.4pc for the period.
Corroborating data released by the Irish Central Statistic Office (CSO) earlier this month showed that the comparatively cheap value of sterling is having a profound impact on the Irish car market.
The CSO data show that the number of used cars that were imported in the first three months of this year was up by 60.9pc compared to last year.
On a monthly basis, the European figures show Ireland's car sales fell by 7.6pc last month. That again compares unfavourably with the rest of the EU, which posted growth of 11.2pc for the month.
A report issued by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry(SIMI) published earlier this week speculated that sales for 2017 could fall by 10pc over the course of this year.
Every county in the country experienced negative growth in new car registrations in Q1; Donegal experienced the largest decline at 19pc, while Dublin experienced the smallest decline at 1.7pc.
Author of the Simi report, economist Jim Power said: "Consumer behaviour remains relatively cautious.
"Personal expenditure on big ticket items such as cars is being undermined by upward pressure on the price of necessities such as motor and home insurance, private rents, private health insurance and housing," he added.
From a European standpoint, the Netherlands (22.8pc) saw the fastest growth in car sales of any developed country within the EU. UK car sales rose by 6.2pc over the course of the year, while Europe's largest economy-Germany- bought 6.7pc more cars.
French sales rose by 4.8pc, while a nascent recovery in Italy may been in evidence in the first quarter, with the overall rate of sales up by 11.9pc. Likewise Greece, for a decade the sick man of Europe, posted an impressive rise of 37.7pc over the 12-month period -albeit this came from a historically low base.
Latvia was the European country in which the least amount of new cars were sold in the first quarter, with 4,064 cars bought during the period.
Last year was a miserable one for German car maker Volkswagen (VW), with the company incurring multi-billion dollar fines following an emissions scandal.
However, sales in the company have rebounded somewhat, with Q1 improving by 3.3pc, bringing VW's share of the European market to 10.5pc.
The most impressive performers in the first three months were Alfa Romeo (+31.8pc), Toyota (+20.9pc) and Seat (+18.4pc). Sales in Renault were ahead by 11.5pc while purchases of new Peugots gained 5pc.
Sales in Mercedes jumped by 11.7pc, while fellow luxury car maker Porsche rose by 13.1pc.
Former communist-era favourite Lada jumped by 62.9pc, although the company did only sell 700 cars last year.