Used imports surge ahead as buyers come out in force for January deals
As many as 90,000 forecast for the year
It is early days but it already looks like we are going to buy significantly more used imports this year than the 10-year high of 72,000-plus for 2016.
Latest official figures would appear to bear that out and to underline the profound effects the post-Brexit plunge in the value of sterling has had on markets at home and abroad.
So far this year, used-import registrations are 1,000 ahead of the total for January 2016.
As of Monday night they stood at 5,446 - up from 4,509. That means we're registering around 1,800 cars a week.
And with another week of business still to go, at the time of writing, sources are estimating that more than 7,000 could be registered by January 31.
Registrations for last January, at 4,509, were the lowest for the year with each subsequent month well above that.
But even if every month this year records the same level of 7,000 registrations, the total for the year would be 84,000.
However, most observers anticipate sales from February onwards will increase pro-rata - like last year. If so, registrations for the whole year could run into the late 80,000s - or beyond.
The extraordinary level of buying means distributors and dealers around the country are battling hard to sell new and used cars on a number of fronts.
One trend to emerge is that some people are buying 'fresh' used cars abroad rather than new 171-reg models.
At the same time, those thinking of buying new are being hit by lower trade-in values because of the heavy supply of good used cars.
Ford Ireland chief Ciarán McMahon has said the level of imports has driven down the value of decent secondhand cars by €2,000 because dealers have to protect themselves against falling valuations
Some seasoned observers reckon it will take this year for the markets to find a steady level. One told Independent Motors: "It takes about 18 months for these things work through the system."
Meantime new-car registrations are ticking over well but many are for models that were pre-ordered late last year.
Current figures will be swollen by late-month registrations so it will be into February before we get a real idea of just how many people are buying a new car.
Purchases overall are expected to run to much the same level as the 146,672 of last year.
Considering the impact of imports and Brexit uncertainty - that would be a real achievement.