Ford Fiesta steering car sales figures to a new high in province
Ford Fiestas raced ahead in the popularity stakes during the first five months of the year, when there was a bigger percentage increase in new cars registered in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.
A total of 27,819 new cars have been registered in 2014 so far, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
That's 14% – or almost 3,500 – more than over the same period the previous year.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the figures are further evidence of the ongoing economic recovery, as confidence among consumers grows to the extent that they are prepared to buy a new car. However, figures were still not at pre-crisis levels.
"Last month's sales figures represented the 16th consecutive rise in new car sales.
"But Northern Ireland's new car sales still remain further below their pre-downturn peak than the UK.
"The latter has recouped almost all of its decline in new car sales that followed the recession."
The economist said: "So far, the local industry has recouped over 40% (42%)of the decrease in new car sales that followed the downturn. New sales are still around 19% lower than they were in 2007.
"This means that despite the recovery, there are still 245 fewer new cars sold each week in Northern Ireland than there were seven years ago."
While car buyers are more active than a year ago, the top five models registered in 2014 were all small cars, with the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo all proving to be big sellers.
Dacia, the low cost Renault brand, appears in the top 10 list in May for Northern Ireland (No 6), Wales (No 8) and Scotland (No 8) for the Dacia Sandero. However, the car doesn't feature in England's top 10.
The statistics show a continuing shift in consumer habits away from the boom days of 2007. Back then, two BMWs featured in the list of the top 10 most popular models, while the latest selections suggest higher fuel prices and falling disposable incomes are placing value-for-money as a priority in car buyers' minds.
Martin Hutchinson, the Scottish Motor Trade Association's Northern Ireland spokesman, said: "These figures are further evidence we are coming out of recession and that consumers are becoming very aware of the low cost of running new cars.
"Smaller cars are again to the forefront of sales – this is not surprising as their running cost is lower and they are more environmentally friendly than their larger counterparts.
"Hard as it may be to believe, it can now be cheaper to run a new car than an older one."
May top 10:
1. Volkswagen Golf: 180 sold
2. Ford Fiesta: 148
3. Ford Focus: 137
4. Vauxhall Corsa: 128
5. Nissan Qashqai: 125
6. Dacia Sandero: 122
7. Vauxhall Astra: 111
8. Seat Leon: 104
9. Renault Captur: 95
10. Hyundai IX35: 87