Bumper year on the cards after surge in sales of new cars
A surge in sales of new cars last month sent registrations soaring by 10,000 to 40,000, new figures reveal.
The increase could mean that the most optimistic forecasts of 150,000 full-year sales will be outstripped by as many as 20,000, some experts believe.
New figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry show a 33.5pc lift to 39,812 (from 29,808 in January 2015).
Hyundai topped the best-sellers list followed by Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan, Renault, Skoda, Opel, KIA and Audi.
Hyundai also had the biggest-selling model with its Tucson crossover/SUV. It was followed by the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Qashqai, Toyota Auris and Renault Clio.
Commercial/van purchases are also significantly up by a third to 6,589 and are being viewed as a strong sign that businesses are confident the economy will continue to grow.
The level of buying has prompted forecasts we could be set to buy an average of 1,000 new cars a week more than last year.
Renault Ireland chief Paddy Magee has predicted sales totalling up to 170,000 by the end of the year. That would be an increase of 45,000 on last year and 20,000 more than the most optimistic expert had forecast.
The figures are published as a new quarterly report on the motor industry underlines how sales are being driven on the back of the highest level of consumer confidence since 2006.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, who launched the report, said the industry had been a key driver in the recovery of the economy, with car sales alone contributing more than €1bn to the Exchequer. He also said it was encouraging to see the growth in employment.
Compiled by economist Jim Power, the report says there has been a "significant" level of catch-up after a dramatic decline in sales from 2008 onwards. It claims people with ageing cars are moving to buy new before the gap in value becomes too difficult to bridge.
However, it says the level of growth may lessen - to 15pc - next year as the market approaches its 'natural' state.