New car sales are back in driving seat with first climb in five years
One of the most accurate indicators of consumer confidence in Northern Ireland has shown a surprising upturn in fortunes.
New car sales - one of the first big-ticket items to feel the pinch during tough economic times - have climbed into positive territory for the first time in five years.
A grand total of 40,128 new cars were sold here in the nine months leading to the end of September.
That's a jump of only 76 on the same period last year, but, even so, it has managed to give the impression that the mood amongst Northern Ireland's beleaguered consumers is beginning to lift for the better.
What's more, it seems we've lost a little of the love we had for the value models and are plumping for some of the brands which characterised the boom times.
Of the top 10 most popular new cars bought in Northern Ireland, the old favourites such as the Ford Focus and Fiesta dominate, but there's a surprising return for an old favourite on our roads, the BMW 3 Series.
And that compares to August when the likes of the Kia and Hyundai made it into the top 10.
The data comes on the day when Halfords revealed its sales had jumped 5% in the last quarter, primarily driven by a jump in sales of cycling equipment following the Tour de France and Olympics.
But despite the recent uplift in new car sales here it's worth keeping a bit of perspective.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said the data shows a slight boost to consumer confidence, but pointed out we're still a long way off the heady days of 2007.
"It still represents 32.5% (almost one third) below the 2007 peak of 59,585 new car registrations between January and September 2007," he said.
The top-selling cars in Northern Ireland last month were:
- Ford Fiesta - 248
- Ford Focus - 216
- Vauxhall Corsa - 201
- Seat Ibiza - 158
- BMW 3 Series - 149
- Vauxhall Astra - 148
- Volkswagen Golf - 138
- Renault Clio - 136
- Volkswagen Polo - 127
- Nissan Qashqai - 122