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NEWS FOCUS

THE new number-plate registration system is continuing to cause confusion among buyers – and anger among sales people.

Such is the level of angst among some sales teams, they are beginning to advocate a return to the old way.

But that is not going to happen according to senior industry figures who insist the new system was always going to take a while to bed in.

However, there is concern that, more than three months into the year, there is still so much confusion out there.

Getting across the fact that the system is ongoing, and does not just apply to this year, continues to pose a major challenge – with many people convinced the 131/132 numbers only apply for 2013.

A number of sales people told Independent Motors they are "totally frustrated" at the way the new system is working.

One said: "The buying public think this is a once-off because there is a '13' in the year.

"There is chaos as a result. They are putting off buying until next year."

Senior industry figures acknowledge the number plate system is a small factor in reduced sales but are adamant the real, overwhelming, problem is the poor, uncertain, economic climate.

As one executive said: "If buyers had money and really wanted a car most of them would not be put off by a change to the number plates."

For the record: The new system is NOT just for this year. It is for the future. It marks two 'new years' in the one from now on.

This year '131' will designate cars bought between January 1 and up to and including June 30. Then '132' will take over to indicate that the car was bought between July 1 and December 31.

Exactly the same formula will apply for next year and each year thereafter. For example '141' will mark January to end-of-June purchases and '142' will accompany cars bought from July to the end of 2014. And so on for 2015, 2016, etc.

For some reason, and despite a huge publicity campaign, including one by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), many potential buyers think the system applies only to 2013 and was brought in to get over the superstitions surrounding the figure '13' in the number plate.

Change

SIMI chief Alan Nolan told Independent Motors: "There has been a poor start to the year but that is reflecting the economy rather than people being upset by number plate change. It will work. It will take time but it is inescapable that it will work."

He also warned that next year's sales may be hit because distributors will pre-order conservatively after being burned this year by ordering on the projection of 75,000-plus new-car sales for 2013. Sales so far suggest 65,000 might be nearer the mark.

Mr Nolan warned: "The Government needs to be aware of the fact that the fall in car sales will hit Exchequer income from the sector."

Irish Independent