independent

Saturday 21 April 2018

Dealers strike a positive note as 181 cars appear

Brexit uncertainty behind drop in new car sales in 2017, says industry

Niall Connolly of Connolly Motors, Coolloney
Niall Connolly of Connolly Motors, Coolloney

Paul Deering

Brexit uncertainty is being blamed for a significant drop in new car sales last year.

Figures released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that the total new car registrations for 2017 was 131,356 which was 10% down on 2016 (146,649).

New Light Commercial Vehicle registrations (LCV) at 24,195, recorded a fall of 14.2% for the year in 2017, while New Heavy Commercial Vehicle registrations (HGV) 2,602 saw a decrease of 9.4% over the 12 months compared to 2016 (2,873). Used car imports saw a dramatic rise o over 20,000.

New car registrations in Sligo fell by 12.91%, down to 1,147 from 1,317 in 2016, a drop of 170 vehicles.

The figure for Leitrim was 551 in 2017 which was also down from 634 in 2016. Mayo saw a drop from 2,816 to 2,277 while in Donegal new car sales in 2017 were 2,943, down from 3,523, a 16.46% fall. In Galway it was 4,923 and 5,843.

SIMI Director General, Alan Nolan said 2017 proved to be a very challenging year mainly due to the impact of Brexit on Euro/Sterling exchange rates.

"Without Brexit we would have anticipated a reasonable level of growth in the market but in the aftermath of the UK Brexit vote we had modified our projection to 132,000 and that prediction turned out to be very accurate with the car market finishing at 131,356. This number is still better than most recent years and produced reasonable volumes across all vehicle sales sectors.

"We are, of course, now at the start of the new 181 sales period which is hugely important for our members who remain optimistic for the coming year.

"For new car buyers competition in the choice of models, the various incentives and special offers as well as the range of finance options mean that competition is driving value for consumers.

"The obvious value available in the Irish new car market has been apparent over the past 12 months with only 79 new cars imported in 2017, despite the low value of sterling. While used imports have been increasing strongly new car imports have fallen by 25% in the last year and by almost 60% over the last three years."

At Martin Reilly Motors in Carraroe, issues surrounding Brexit aren't causing too much concern.

Brian Reilly said the BMW, Hyundai and Mini dealership was looking forward to a positive 2018 and while overall sales might have been down last year, the BMW and Hyundai brands had performed well.

He said sales of BMW was up year on year in 2017 (8%) while Hyundai was on a level with 2016.

Pre-order sales were encouraging for 2018 with 15% extra for BMW while Hyundai was in line with 2017. He said the new Kona and i30 saloons meant there was even more keener interest in Hyundai as the year started. He also said there was quite an interest in the new BMW X3.

And, in a bid to counteract the effect of anyone thinking of importing a BMW, dealers are offering a 9% discount off all 181 registrations.

"That will mean we will be selling our new BMWs cheaper than any imports. Anyone going over the border to buy a BMW won't be able to save anything," said Brian.

He says Martin Reilly Motors expects to sell around 110 new Hyundai cars in January and some 50 BMWs.

Amongst the top selling Hyundai makes will be the Tucson. It was the country's top selling car in 2017.

"We're set up nicely for what should be a good year ahead," said Brian.

Optimism was also the key note at Connolly's whose dealerships at Carraroe and Collooney sell Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagen. Niall Connolly said indications before Christmas were for a really good 2018. Pre orders in the final weeks of 2017 for Mercedes Benz was up 20% on the same period in 2016.

"The pre-order book is a big indicator and while 2017 was strong we're definitely looking at a very good 2018.

"There are some very good packages and finance deals available at present and these are attracting buyers," he said.

The E class was the best seller in Mercedes in 2016 while the CLA and C class also performed strongly while there will be a new A class coming to the market in a few months.

Volkswagen was the country's best selling brand in 2017 and the VW range will perform strongly for Connolly's again this year. Niall said there were good PCP renewals to keep sales strong while Audi sold the exact same numbers as it did in 2016 with the A6 and Q5 the leading sellers.

Particularly pleasing for Niall was the pre-orders of commercial vans. A sign of a recovering economy, Niall says they began doing deals in October and pre sales were up by 50%.

With no fleet deals the van sales were to owner buyers ranging from carpenters and plumbers to butchers, says Niall.

At Kevin Egan Cars, also in Carraroe, it's very much a new beginning. The dealership will be selling new cars for the first time at the start of a year having become a main Peugeot dealer last November.

Emma Regan in marketing says that the 3008 and 5008 SUV models were expected to sell well and the dealership was looking forward to a good year with the brand. She said the used car sales market had also been extremely good for Kevin Egan Cars and that its 2017 figures were as on a par with 2016 which she said was phenomenal.

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