Belfast Telegraph

Va va vroom! What drove Northern Ireland car sales up by 10% in the last year?

BY DAVID ELLIOTT

It's official. Smaller, cheaper vehicles are fuelling our re-emerging love for a new car.

That new car smell, snuffed out for many by a difficult few years for the economy, was enjoyed by nearly 5,000 more people in Northern Ireland over the last year, as more confident consumers splashed out on big ticket items.

A total of 52,460 new cars were registered here in 2013, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That's 10% – or just under 5,000 – more than in the previous year, and one of the best indicators of an improving economic picture.

While car dealers will be enjoying a busier period, there's still a way to go before the market recovers to levels reached in 2007 when 68,000 new cars took to the roads. Then, the top 10 most popular new car table was dominated by Ford's Focus and Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but also included a BMW 3 series at number nine.

Last year, the BMW 3 series vanished as new buyers opted for smaller, cheaper models.

In 2013, there was growing popularity for Nissan, as in the rest of the UK, which took the fifth and eighth most popular spots respectively for its Qashqai and Juke models. That shows a shift in consumer habits, one of which has a weather eye on value.

It's this factor that is said to be why smaller, more economical cars feature heavily in the top 10, as fuel prices head ever higher and disposable income continues to tighten.

The top 10 is also dominated by the Ford Fiesta and Focus, the Volkswagen Golf and Polo, the Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio.

The trend for smaller cars has continued throughout the other UK regions, although England, which accounts for by far the largest percentage of total UK car registrations at 1.9m in 2013, has two BMWs in its top 10.

Meanwhile, total new car registrations in the UK as a whole reached 2.26m, the best year since 2007, but still around 6% lower than the level reached in that year.

When it comes to choice, a growing list of makes, models and specifications is also changing the make-up of cars on our roads.

Colin McNab, operations director at Charles Hurst Group, said: "Today's motorists really have never had as much choice, value and ways to pay on models which come with zero road tax, low insurance and improved fuel economy, to vehicles powered by electricity."

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