THE motor industry is ready “to get back to work” and is now well geared up to sell vehicles under social distancing rules as it reels from a ‘devastating’ 96pc plunge in new-car registrations last month.
A paltry 344 new cars were registered in April, the first full-month results since the virus-enforced mid-March closure of dealerships.
Registrations for the year to date are down 30.7pc to 50,626, final official SIMI figures show.
The near wipe-out of activity due to the COVID-19 lockdown is reflected in extremely low used-car sales and servicing too. Secondhand imports slumped by 97.8pc to a meagre 199, for example. They were running at 8,887 in April last year. Overall, imports are down 50.5pc for the year to date.
According to SIMI director general Brian Cooke dealers are using the downtime to put stringent measures in place to protect employees and customers for when business resumes.
He said the size of dealerships and average footfall for sales and servicing are making it easier to organise social distancing as well as having sanitisation measures in place.
“While the short-term outlook for the economy is bleak, once the health situation allows, the motor industry is ready to get back to work,” Mr Cooke said.
There are hopes the July registration period (202-reg) might help kick-start economic activity and protect the 50,000 or so people employed in the sector. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, it is being highlighted that newer cars would lessen transport’s impact on the environment as they emit fewer harmful emissions.
But Mr Cooke warned how important it is that current supports and cash flow benefits from Revenue continue. He wants additional measures too, such as the cancellation of rates bills and reductions in VAT and VRT. He also called for NCT and commercial vehicle test centres to be reopened immediately.
Meanwhile, diesel cars account for a sizeable 43.92pc of new-car purchases so far this year with petrol sales reaching 38.05pc of the total followed by hybrids (12.33pc), electric (3.37pc) and plug-in hybrid (2.06pc).
The top-selling car brands are: 1. Toyota 2. Volkswagen 3. Hyundai 4. Skoda 5. Ford.
And the most popular individual models are the: 1. Toyota Corolla, 2. Hyundai Tucson, 3. Volkswagen Tiguan, 4. Ford Focus, 5. Skoda Octavia.