Post-Brexit sterling slump makes NI cars cross-border bargain
Brexit has provided a major boost for Northern Ireland's car dealers, it has emerged.
The slump in sterling's value following the UK's shock vote to exit the EU has led to a flood of motorists from the Republic crossing the border for a bargain.
The cost of bringing a second-hand car into the Republic from Northern Ireland is much lower as the pound weakens against the euro.
Currency exchange specialists TransferMate Global Payments said there has been a flurry of activity in the Republic's import market since the Brexit vote on June 23.
Imports of vehicles increased by a whopping 36%, with buyers reporting savings of £3,000 or more.
The savings are greatest on luxury or sports cars.
Currency trading expert Barry Dowling said: "It's a piece of cake bringing a car from mainland UK or Northern Ireland - and the dealers themselves are doing it for the customers anyway."
New figures show that imports of vehicles rocketed by 36% or €99m (£85m) to €374m (£321m) in June this year compared with June 2015.
Mr Dowling said that trade experts had seen a 60% hike in car transactions since Brexit compared to the same time last year, due to "dramatic drop-off in the value of sterling".
"There are a number of factors, but the exchange rate has been an accelerator," he added.
"The worst time for sales is between September and December, but now with sterling falling, I'd say there'll probably still be strength in it into December, because there is speculation that sterling will go to parity, but most likely to £0.90 or £0.95 by the end of the year."
Ian Sinnamon, sales executive at Isaac Agnew Mercedes Benz, which is based at Boucher Road in Belfast, said the demand from southern buyers for new and used cars has increased in the wake of the Brexit poll on June 23.
"We've definitely noticed a surge in the number of people coming from the Republic," he said. "We tend to deal with the top percentage of customers who have the money to buy a luxury car outright, because we don't offer finance to people from the south for example, and there have been more enquiries - and sales - as a result of the recent exchange rate.
"My colleagues in the used car section are also reporting that they're getting a lot of interest in customers from Ireland."
At Jerome Lynch Car Sales in Newry there has been a 20% increase in the volume of calls from southern customers in recent weeks.
"Sales are already up and that's something we expect to continue if the pound gets weaker as time goes on," said Mr Lynch, who deals in used cars.