Premium car sales accelerating but cheaper models stuck in slow lane
Sales of premium new cars in Northern Ireland have recovered to pre-recession levels but budget purchases remain stuck in the slow lane, an economist said.
Brands like Audi, BMW, Volvo and Porsche rose almost 13% last year and are 12% above 2007 levels.
However the number of transactions involving less valuable vehicles fell by 2% and Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland Richard Ramsey noted the rate of overall growth trailed that of the UK as a whole.
He said: "The Northern Ireland new car sales market is stuck in the crawler lane."
According to the latest data, s ales across the UK saw a fifth successive year of growth, up 2.3% last year and by almost 40% over the last five years. Last year's UK total represented the highest figure on record.
Northern Ireland showrooms sold 57,324 new cars last year, a rise of just 227 or 0.4% on the previous year.
Mr Ramsey said: "New car sales in Northern Ireland have been flat since 2014 and remain almost 17% (11,384) below 2007's peak.
"Looking ahead, with rising fuel costs coupled with wider inflationary pressures, the consumer environment is set to get more challenging.
"A third year of stagnant car sales beckons."