NEW-CAR registrations may be steaming ahead (up around 38pc) for the first 20 days of the new year but they are being matched in percentage terms by purchases of used imports.
New-car registrations for the first 20 days are running at 14,004 according to Motorcheck.ie figures, while the SIMI puts them at 14,040. That's a big jump on the 10,124 (10,119 SIMI) for the corresponding period for last year.
But second-hand imports are proportionately doing at least as well with 2,801 registered so far, according to Motorcheck.ie. That is a 42pc increase on the corresponding period for 2013.
In many ways the level of imports suggests an even bigger switch to used cars abroad. That's because last year was up significantly on the year before while new sales were down - as we know only too well.
Of course it is all too early to read too much into any of the figures at this stage.
Comparisons often fail to take into account factors such as the number of days that dealers were open for business, weather, model availability etc. However, used imports registrations tend to stay steady right through the year and do not fluctuate with the seasonality of new purchases (January-April and July/August). Last year, for example, there was a near-consistent 4,000 or so imports registered nearly every month.
Should second-hand imports continue at the level of these first three weeks we could be looking at as many as 65,000 - or more - before the end of the year. That would be an increase of well in excess of 15,000. It reflects the reality on the ground where people need to upgrade but can't afford to buy new.
Some industry experts claim many thousands of that 15,000 would have bought a new car this year - with much bigger revenue for the Exchequer - had the Government sanctioned a swappage scheme for cars aged six years and older.
Effectively it would have knocked €4,000 off the price of a new car when a government VRT rebate of €2,000 was informally matched by dealers.
At least the lift in new-car registrations is contributing to a feelgood factor (albeit tinged with caution) among buyers and sellers.
If the upward sales trend continues it could be one of the best indicators yet of an economy really beginning to move.