NEW car registrations for the month of January, the peak month for sales, are down by almost 19 per cent compared with the same period last year.
But the figure has been totally distorted by an avalanche of registrations on the last day of the month, Thursday, when 2,826 new cars were registered.
Up to that day, sales were down by 32 per cent, which sent shockwaves through the industry.
The Thursday blitz of registrations accounted for 16 per cent of the total sales for the country in January, which stands at 17,294.
The tidal wave of registrations by garages and importers has done little to bolster confidence in the industry as there is widespread belief that pre-registrations by garages and importers, to keep market share up, is a factor in the dramatic figures turnaround.
Fleet sales activity, cars going into hire drive and garages on time-sensitive incentive bonuses are the other reasons being put forward by the trade.
A random selection of figures shows January 31 registrations accounted for 29.6 per cent of Opel sales (311); 26 per cent for BMW (239); 25 per cent for Nissan (301); 20 per cent for Ford (368); 16 per cent for VW (341); 23 per cent for Mazda (81); and 7.3 per cent for Toyota (136).
An industry source said there was a growing trend to pre-register "to meet targets". Another said "tactical" registrations were used to keep market share up during a slow period of sales.
Eddie Murphy, chairman and managing director of Ford Ireland, said in the motor industry sales performance tends to be gauged monthly. All involved in the sales process will do their utmost to record as many sales as possible within a given month.
"As part of this, it may be that purchase incentives in place for both consumers and dealers expire at the end of a calender month, which will lead to a flurry of registrations over the final days of a month."