New car registrations here among highest in Europe
The pace of growth in new cars being bought in Ireland was among the highest in Europe over the last year, highlighting the surge in new registrations taking place here.
New data shows that Europe's car market pick up gained a firmer footing in March, as a sharp recovery in some mid-market brands eclipsed growth in no-frills models.
After months of hesitant growth, there were solid gains in the five biggest markets: Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, as consumer confidence improves on the back of greater job security, lower energy prices and the EU's money-printing stimulus programme.
Total registrations rose 10.8pc to 1.65 million cars across the region, the Brussels-based Association of European Carmakers said, taking the first-quarter expansion to 8.5pc.
"Customers and manufacturers are happy. It has been a long time since we last experienced this situation in Europe," said Carlos Da Silva, an analyst at forecaster IHS Automotive.
Ireland ranked third in Europe for the pace of growth, with the number of new cars registered in March up 32.9pc on the same month last year to 19,003.
Top of the league table was Portugal, which experienced a 41.8pc jump to 20,071.
Overall, mid-market models, which had suffered most in a prolonged slump ending last year, outpaced the budget stablemates that had eclipsed them during the crisis, when frugality reigned. Among specific brands, Renault saw sales jump 11.6pc, while the French carmaker's low-cost Dacia cars posted a lesser gain of 7.5pc.
A 6.4pc sales increase at Volkswagen's spartan Skoda division was outshone by the core VW brand, which saw registrations surge 11.5pc. Even Fiat Chrysler's downtrodden Fiat line-up produced 13.7pc growth.
New launches from the likes of Renault and Fiat Chrysler were also helping and should support sales for months to come, analysts said.
"People may not have bought a car for a few years and may be more open to switching brands, so having the right product is key now," said George Galliers at Evercore.
Ford recorded a gain of 8.9pc in March and 7.4pc for the quarter, after years of European pain, while US rival General Motors recorded a more modest 4.3pc gain for its European arques Opel and Vauxhall.
GM nonetheless predicted last week that rebounding European demand would power a return to regional profit in 2016, offsetting deep losses in Russia.
Data from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) earlier this month showed that new car registrations for the first quarter of 2015 were up 30pc on last year - and are running well ahead of even the most optimistic forecasts.
Registrations for the year-to-date reached 64,716. This is significantly up from 49,901 for the first quarter of 2014.
Sales last year totalled 96,338, which was 30pc ahead of the 74,367 registered in 2013.