Toyota take top spot with late flurry of new registrations
* Experts forecast similar market for 2017 * Used UK imports pass 72,000 mark
A late, late flurry of new-car registrations nudged Toyota to the top of the best-seller league for 2016, latest figures show.
In the dwindling days of December, the Japanese brand overtook long-time leader Hyundai whose Tucson was far and away the biggest-selling model last year.
Official statistics from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show how Toyota racked up registrations of 15,530 for the year.
Hyundai came in second with 15,442, the figures show, with Volkswagen registering 15,411 despite a difficult year in the wake of the emissions scandal. Ford came fourth and Nissan were fifth.
The late-year rush to register meant numbers for December were up 45pc (499) compared with the corresponding month in 2015 (344).
According to Michael Rochford of Motorcheck.ie, Toyota emerged as top seller on the last two days of 2016 "with pre-registrations of the new Toyota C-HR reaching 160 for December".
Overall, new-car registrations for the year came to 146,672, up 17.5pc on 2015 (124,804).
That is the biggest number registered since 2008 but there is caution across the industry about whether it will be reached this year as uncertainty deepens over Brexit.
Most experts are predicting 146,000 or so, especially as used imports are expected to climb.
SIMI's director general, Alan Nolan, says the industry "is anticipating a continuation of the strong performance seen during 2016 and is projecting similar registration numbers to last year".
Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) were up 18.3pc (28,180) and are regarded as the best indicator of activity within the economy.
The number of used UK imports surged in 2016 to 72,182 (from 47,798) according to the SIMI figures. Many in the industry expect the total to increase again this year.
Mr Nolan said nearly 50pc of imports were between three and five-years-old, with 40pc more than six-years-old.
And, according to Mr Rochford: "There is evidence to suggest that a lot of people who may have been waiting to purchase a new car in 2017 took advantage of the drop in sterling and opted to import a nearly-new vehicle at the end of 2016 instead."
He advised intending buyers to be extra vigilant and to make sure they check the vehicle has not been clocked, written-off or still under finance.