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Sunday 26 February 2017

Motor trade in a tizzy over sales in 'unlucky' 2013

Dealers fear superstitious buyers will stay away

Campbell Spray Motoring Editor

THE country's motor industry is coming down with a severe bout of triskaidekaphobia.

We have always been a superstitious race -- and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) is widespread.

There is concern that in 2013 there will be a big drop in sales because car buyers won't want a new car with a reg starting with the number 13.

Industry has always taken the fear of 13 seriously. The number is not used for rows of seats on some airlines, office blocks routinely miss out the 13th floor while hotels also pander to guests' fears of the unlucky number.

Alan Nolan, director-general of the Society of the Irish Motoring Industry (SIMI), confirmed that the issue has been discussed and that submissions are being made to the Government as part of a campaign to change the seasonality of the car market which sees the majority of sales being made in the first few months of any year.

"There isn't an over-focus on the 2013 issue for fear that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But unscientific surveys indicate that around 7 to 8 per cent of sales could be affected and with the current contraction in the market that could make a real impact.

"This would be serious for both the car industry and the State in terms of lost revenue," added Mr Nolan.

The need for a complete change in the vehicle registration system is more important, said Mr Nolan, pointing out that the massive pre-ordering that has to be done by the industry to meet the demand in the new year is a major drain on resources.

The pure seasonality of the business is also having a very negative effect on careers in the motor trade as people are taken on for the first couple of months of the year and then let go. The switch to a six-month cycle of registration changes is preferred.

As regards an alternative to the 13 plate, a number of ideas has been floated by the SIMI, with the current favourite being using the 26 number for the start of the year followed by 27 for the second half. The sequence would then follow for 2014 as 28 and 29.

Many car manufacturers were reluctant to comment on the issue for fear of its gaining wider currency. However, BMW believes it definitely could be a concern.

The issue was first raised by Gerry Murphy, this year's chairman of the Irish Motoring Writers' Association, in his keynote speech at this year's presentation of the Continental Irish Car of the Year Awards.

Mr Murphy, the respected motoring correspondent for the Connacht Tribune and Galway Bay FM, drew attention to what he calls the "baby jumbo in the room".

He added: "I remember listening to a conversation I heard in my own brother's garage back in May or June. A regular customer who changes his car every three years -- God bless him -- was asking if he should trade his 2010 Astra and buy in 2012 or 2014.

"A solid customer, who bought in 04, 07 and 2010. He is your typical steady man in his late 50s: a bit predictable and maybe a bit conservative -- you all know the kind. Works hard, has a bit of money and spends it wisely. He just didn't want a 13 plate -- straightforward superstition!

"That got me thinking, could he be one of many? And I know, I have bounced this issue off some people already, but there just might be something in it. It might seem ridiculous, but it does bother many people. We don't want to start a scare campaign -- others will probably do that anyway -- but a small, if unscientific, survey suggests to me that 15 to 20 per cent of people would not buy a car with a 13 plate," he said.

Meanwhile, in Britain, Carreg.com, a leading personalised number plate scheme says that many people in the UK will think the number 13 is unlucky but it also said that "we do get a lot of customers who really want to be different and buy personalised number plates with '13' on them".

This view was echoed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) which issues registration numbers for Great Britain.

A spokesman said that: "From a GB perspective, there are no plans to change the current process. Based on the information available to the DVLA through the sale of registration numbers, those containing 13 are as popular and achieve the same selling price as other numbers.

"Additionally, the cost of changing the current twice yearly change of registration number for one six-month period could not be justified for what could be a relatively small number of complaints."

The word triskaidekaphobia comes from the Greek tris meaning three, kai meaning and, deka meaning 10 and phobia meaning fear.

Incidentally, paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, which is considered to be a day of bad luck in a number of western cultures. In Romania, Greece and some areas of Spain and Latin America, Tuesday the 13th (called "martes trece") is considered unlucky.

However, one of the most successful sportsmen of recent years has made himself a worldwide name and fortune by togging out for years in the No 13 shirt in rugby, Brian O'Driscoll.

He is currently out injured.

Sunday Independent

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