Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland car sales stuck in low gear as rest of UK hits a 12-year record

By Rachel Martin

New car sales in Northern Ireland made a slow start to 2017 while dealers in other parts of the UK celebrated the best January in more than a decade.

Latest industry figures show Northern Ireland had the worst start to the year out of the four UK regions, while in other parts of the UK, January's new car sales reached a 12-year high.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 174,000 new cars were registered in the UK last month. The figure is up 2.9% year-on-year and is the most in January since 2005.

However, sales so far this year are down 0.9% in Northern Ireland compared to the same point in 2016.

The region was the only area to sell fewer cars in January than the year before.

Despite a rocky 2016, Volkswagen had three of its models named among the 10 most popular new cars registered in Northern Ireland last month. The German car marker's Golf took first place with 262 new cars driving off the forecourt, 10 more than Ford Fiesta in second place.

Other models, Polo and Tiguan ranked 5th and 10th respectively.

More than 6,000 new cars were registered here in the first month of 2017.

English car dealers saw the biggest boost with new car registrations up 3.3% on the same point in 2016. December saw the second month in a row where new car sales here stagnated.

New car registrations rose slightly in the run-up to Christmas, up by 2.1%, but the boost didn't follow through into January.

The year as a whole finished up 0.4% on 2015's figures.

Speaking at the time, Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey warned things were unlikely to improve in the industry, despite healthy consumer spending in general.

He added that he suspected the car market here would find itself back in reverse.

More than 85% of new cars bought in the UK are imported and their cost is "gradually going up" due to the reduction in the value of the pound, the SMMT's chief executive, Mike Hawes commented.

Across the UK, the alternatively-fuelled vehicle segment - which includes biodiesel, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars - grew 19.9% to take a record 4.2% market share, marking the first time that 4% has been surpassed.

Across other fuel types there was a mixed picture: diesel registrations were down 4.3%, but new registrations of petrol cars grew by 8.9%.

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