Car sales in Northern Ireland accelerated during June at the fastest rate of the four UK regions – suggesting that consumer confidence is strong enough to encourage us to splash out on a new set of wheels.
According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, car sales in Northern Ireland in the first six months of the year were 12% higher than the same period a year earlier.
That compared with an increase in motor sales of 11.6% in Wales, 10.7% in England and 9.4% in Scotland.
But on a month-by-month basis, car sales revving up more slowly, with Northern Ireland sales during June up 2.46% on May.
In common with the other three UK regions, Ford Fiesta was the most popular model cruising off forecourts during June, while the Ford Focus was the second most popular model.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said June's figures represented the seventeenth consecutive month of growing car sales.
But he cautioned that the duration of our recovery – as reflected in car sales – had lagged behind the UK, where car sales had been growing for 28 months.
June's year-on-year increase was also the smallest in over a year for Northern Ireland. "It remains to be seen whether this slowdown signals the start of a new phase whereby consumer confidence begins to stabilise after almost 18 months of being on the rise."
And he said the the figures portrayed just an incomplete recovery. "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.
"So far, Northern Ireland has recouped just over 40% of the decrease in new car sales that followed the downturn."
Colin McNab, operations director at car retailer Charles Hurst, said: "Like other UK regions, drivers here have shown that they are just as willing and just as confident to step into the market and make what for many is a significant purchase.
"Certainly, this continued growth in the new car sector in Northern Ireland is a further positive sign of economic growth and improved consumer confidence.
"However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this growth is also being driven by a savvy, cost-conscious consumer who is well briefed on the savings, the availability of cheaper finance, better fuel economy and tax-reducing benefits which can be achieved with the purchase of a new vehicle."
Top 10 new car registrations in Northern Ireland this year
1. Ford Fiesta 1,379
2. VW Golf 1,093
3. Ford Focus 998
4. Nissan Qashquai 819
5. Vauxhall Astra 798
6. Vauxhall Corsa 794
7. Volkswagen Polo 722
8. Seat Ibiza 652
9. Nissan Juke 650
10. Renault Captur 647
Total Top 10, 8,552