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Northern Ireland Porsche sales hike drives firm's £250k expansion

By Claire McNeilly

A Co Antrim Porsche workshop is expanding as Northern Ireland's appetite for luxury cars surges, it was announced today.

Sales of Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover and Volvo all hit record highs in 2016, zooming off forecourts at their fastest in a decade, and up 19% on the year before.

But the popularity of Ferrari is on the wane, as year-on-year Northern Ireland sales of the Italian supercar fell by 29%, according to figures from a leading trade body.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMT) reported that 220 Porsches were sold in Northern Ireland in 2016 - up 7% on 2015, and amounting to the highest number bought since the savage financial collapse in 2007.

And that's despite a hefty price tag of at least £40,000 for a new model - and upwards of £10,000 for a second-hand machine.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsay said the shift towards Porsche is linked to what he calls "the SUV phenomenon".

"The whole market has seen a shift towards surban or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) so brands that have embraced it have done well and the brands which haven't, haven't," he said.

"People like SUVs and it's all about giving consumers what they want so the successful brands are offering premium products for a variety of budgets.

"Vauxhall had its worst year for sales since 1999, for example, so the luxury brands are now eating into the middle of the market."

George McMillan, who owns McMillan Porsche in Antrim, said the rising number of enthusiasts for the luxury car has seen his customer-base swell, so he is now expanding his business.

Although he has used vehicles up for grabs - with prices starting at £10,000 for a second-hand Porsche Boxster or £15,000 for a Cayenne - his main line of work involves repairs as opposed to buying and selling.

"Our main customers are young men and women starting out in the world of Porsche, or retired people," said Mr McMillan, who has been in business since 1990.

To facilitate ongoing growth, McMillan Porsche has acquired new 55,000 sq ft premises at Kilbegs Industrial Estate in Antrim, made up of a large workshop, training area, customer facilities, and a forecourt.

There, Mr McMillan said the company intends to expand its workforce from five people to 15 people over the next two years, with the help of an investment of almost £250,000 from Ulster Bank.

"The recession helped our business," he said.

"Prior to it, customers went to mainstream dealers and never queried prices but, since then, businessmen started to look around and realised they can get better deals elsewhere."

He added: "Outside of Germany, the UK has one of the highest instances of Porsche ownerships anywhere, and Northern Ireland has a large and growing base of Porsche owners."

Conor McNeill, business manager with Ulster Bank, said: "We are very pleased to help with the new premises, which are a fitting base for a highly professional business."

McMillan Porsche offers servicing, diagnostics, modifications, repairs, and rebuilds of the premium cars.

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