Confidence builds demand for new family cars
THE significant increase in new-car purchases last year can be attributed to one simple factor.
The broader economic outlook was beginning to brighten. Thoughts of buying a new car didn't seem as outrageous as 12 months previously.
The public mood lifted. And a fragile confidence built.
On the back of that confidence, other influences were energised.
Credit was more widely available and finance plans (especially personal contract plans - PCPs) meant it was possible to drive a new car for €200 a month, for example.
And cars were getting so old out there it was a matter of now or never for thousands of owners who had annually postponed purchases.
And so more than 20,000 new cars were registered than in 2013.
For the first time in many years, there was a perceptible increase in the number of private, as opposed to corporate, new-car purchases.
The figures rose. The mid-year July numbers took everyone by surprise.
Of course, the surge has to be taken in perspective.
It was coming off a disastrously low base. When you consider it is accepted that annual sales of 130,000 or so is the required level to maintain the industry here, you can see we have some way to go.
But this year should herald another significant step.
Order books haven't been this full for a long time - footfall in dealerships, and enquiries, are well up.
Credit, in many manifestations, is even more widely available.
All the experts agree we are looking at 110,000 minimum new-car registrations this year.
Indeed, a figure of 115,000 is increasingly being mooted, such has been the start to 2014.
Alongside that, the sort of car we are buying is changing dramatically.
While we still love our Ford Fiestas, Toyota Corollas and Volkswagen Golfs, we are - like the rest of Europe - 'trending' big time on what are called compact crossovers/SUVS.
Sales are soaring and families especially are opting for crossovers, such as the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Captur, Toyota RAV4 and Opel Mokka.
They are going for these spacious vehicles in increasing numbers, instead of the more traditional saloons and hatchbacks.
Buyers want the more exotic looks offered by the 'crossover' blend of SUV, estate and coupe.
But it is by no means the end of the road for more conventional cars, with the likes of Volkswagen's new Passat (launched here yesterday) or Ford's new Mondeo expected to attract upwards of 3,000 buyers each this year.
That's confidence for you.