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Motor industry seeks urgent rescue package

The motor trade is seeking an urgent rescue package from Government, with sales of new cars down by two thirds.

Two major Dublin dealerships collapsed on Friday, adding to more than 3,000 jobs lost in the last five months.

As new car sales here fell by 66 per cent in the first 20 days of January compared with last year, there is a boom in imports, with millions of euro flooding out of the economy as buyers search for bargains in Britain and North.

UK-based online car retailer Autoquake.com reported a 32-fold increase in Irish visitors to their website. They expect to sell between 80 and 100 cars each month to customers from Ireland.

A spokesman for the company told the Sunday Independent: "The low pound boosted the process considerably over the last two months."

The UK company has launched an Ireland homepage and says that 10 per cent of their entire business is with Irish customers.

Here, two Dublin Car dealerships collapsed with the loss of 55 jobs. Winfield Motor Group, which employs 30 staff in Sandymount and Dun Laoghaire, has appointed a receiver, while Westland Motors, a Peugeot dealership based at Liffey Valley, will be wound up with the loss of 25 jobs.

Tomorrow, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) will launch proposals for a Government rescue package, including a scrappage scheme for older cars.

"Scrappage is almost a no-brainer. It generates business in our sector, it protects employment, it generates extra revenue for the State and it has all the safety and environmental benefits as well," said SIMI director general Alan Nolan.

Meanwhile, a Blackpool car dealership is also enjoying a boom in sales to the Republic.

Chorley Nissan, based in the South Shore area of the seaside resort, reports a increase in sale to Ireland.

The firm's Richard Braithwaite said: "The motor industry is experiencing a major economic downturn at the moment, so we are looking at new initiatives.

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"We are probably into double figures a month, in terms of sales to buyers from outside our area. People will fly over from Dublin and Belfast, have a bit of a holiday over here for a few days, buy a car and then get the ferry back -- and all that works out far cheaper than buying a car back in Ireland" he told a local newspaper.

One Irish buyer believes he saved tens of thousands of euro by buying a top-of-the-range Mercedes from a London dealer.

UK dealers are so anxious to lure Irish customers that he was met at Gatwick airport and then chauffeured to a dealership where he concluded a deal on a Mercedes S320 lwb (long wheel base) CDi for £42,000 (€47,886). The car was a '08 demonstration model with 11,000 miles on the odometer. As a result, no VAT was payable here but the VRT due was about €30,000. Brand new Mercedes S320s sell for about €113,000 here but can be significantly more expensive, depending on extras.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week show the number of new cars registered last year fell by 19 per cent, but the number of second-hand cars imported into Ireland rose by 2.3 per cent, from 58,719 in 2007, to 60,091.

A total of 146,470 new cars were registered in 2008, compared with 180,754 in 2007. The number of new goods vehicles fell from 46,043 to 31,459, or by 31.7 per cent in 2008. But there is now strong evidence that with sterling and the euro at near parity, there has been a further surge in people travelling north and to the UK to buy rather than spend their money at home.

See Motoring, Page 33

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