NEW car sales soared by almost a third in January, with almost 14,000 new vehicles sold.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the number of cars sold last month rose 30pc compared to January 2010.
Some 13,624 new private cars were licensed last month, up from 10,469 (up 30pc) in January 2010.
But there was a drop in the number of new goods vehicles, down from 1,016 in January last year to just 969 (down 4.6pc).
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) said the figures were a sign of confidence in the sector. But it noted that the Big Freeze in January meant some people would have been prevented from purchasing a new car.
"You do have to take into account the very bad weather last January which prevented people going out and buying," a spokeswoman said. "However, the increase is a sign of a real confidence in the industry, and from talking to dealers around the country, scrappage enquiries and sales are strong."
Seven in every 10 cars sold are diesel, and the move to greener, more fuel-efficient cars continues with 12,098 (89pc) falling into the 'A' and 'B' motor tax bands. The most popular make is Toyota (2,503), followed by Ford (1,642), Volkswagen (1,455) and Renault (1,083).
A total of 18,701 new and used vehicles were licensed during the month, including cars, goods vehicles and motorcycles.
Meanwhile, car dealers have said they will not follow Mercedes in banning the sale of cars in the UK for export to other EU countries.
Yesterday it emerged that the luxury manufacturer will no longer allow cars to be sold through its network of nine dealers for export to countries including Ireland, but independent dealers will be free to sell to Irish buyers.
Importing cars from the UK has become very popular in recent years because significant savings can be made, even after Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) is paid. CSO figures show that in January, some 2,565 cars were imported here, many from the UK. Mercedes said it would no longer sell a used car when it was known it was being bought for export.
But other manufacturers are not following suit. SIMI said it was not aware of any policy from other companies, while BMW said it did not operate a ban on exporting cars.
Ford Ireland and Renault both confirmed they did not have a ban on sales of cars in the UK for export. Volkswagen and Toyota could not be reached for comment.