Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland car sales are driven up despite our election headwind

By John Mulgrew

Car sales in Northern Ireland were up slightly last month but the number of vehicles driving out of forecourts remains down during the start of this year.

And the region still continues to lag behind elsewhere in the UK.

There were 4,447 new cars registered here in April - a rise of 1% on the same period last year.

But the UK as a whole saw sales continue to shoot up by more than 5% - buoyed by strong numbers of cars driving out of forecourts in England and Wales.

And sales for the year to date are down by more than 1% in Northern Ireland, based on the same period in 2014.

However, the latest small increase is a welcome change following a drop in sales in March, according to figures from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It's the Ford Fiesta which continues to top overall car sales in Northern Ireland, followed in second place by the Nissan Qashqai.

Scotland suffered a slump of more than 3% in sales last month.

Northern Ireland's sales continue to drag behind those in Britain - even though year-on-year, 2014's car sales in Northern Ireland were at their highest level since the since the financial collapse in 2007.

And consumer confidence is likely to face further "headwinds" in the coming weeks following the election, according to Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey.

That could mean fewer motor sales in the next few months.

"It's like what we have seen with the purchasing managers' index in recent months - the recovery appears to have stalled," he said.

"The fact that it's still down slightly, whereas in the UK it is still growing, is symptomatic of the rest of the UK in terms of indexes, employment and new car sales.

"The pre-election campaigns by the political parties have been more positive than the reality.

"So when the fiscal realities become clear, that is like to dent consumer confidence."

Meanwhile, figures for 2014 in Northern Ireland showed sales of Italian supercars Ferrari and Maserati more than doubled in the last year as big spenders return to Northern Ireland forecourts.

According to the trade body, 47 of the luxury sports cars - which can cost around £100,000 - powered out of out forecourts in 2014, up from just 20 in the previous year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the UK-wide figures "highlight the current strength of consumer confidence, even at a time of such political uncertainty".

He said the next Government must act quickly to uphold economic certainty.

Belfast Telegraph