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Car sales soar in Northern Ireland, but boom may be short-lived

New car sales in Northern Ireland were up by almost 7% last month compared to August 2019, according to new figures.

But one economist believes the boost could be the calm before the storm for the sector.

A total of 3618 new cars were sold here in August, 224 vehicles or 6.6% more than what was sold last August, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It was the highest increase in sales out of any UK region for the month of August, with England faring worse, with a reduction in sales of 7.5%.

Looking at car sales figures for the entire year to date, Northern Ireland's purchases are still in negative territory due to showroom closures halting operations during lockdown. The percentage change in car sales for the year sits at -38.98%.

In the year to date, 23,179 new cars have been sold here compared to 37,989 over the same period last year.

The five best-selling cars here last month were the Hyundai Tucson, Ford Focus, Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Golf and the Renault Capture.

The best-selling new cars here over the past year were the Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Golf and the Volkswagen Tiguan.

While August figures marked a positive boost for the sector, they were not as high as July's, during which sales rose by 17% on the previous July.

However, one of the region's biggest car showroom owners, Paul Ward, director at Shelbourne Motors, welcomed the rise.

He said: "At Shelbourne Motors we have seen significant growth in both new and used cars since the reopening of the showrooms in June. We are trading ahead of expectations and are very optimistic that this trend will continue. New car offers across our brands are very strong and we have seen a real demand for EV/Hybrid models, which is a change to the traditional diesel market."

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey says the real visibility of how the sector is performing will not be evident for another few months.

He said: "Clearly there remains an element of pent-up demand in the latest figures which follow the best July in 13 years. Back in July new car sales increased by 17%. Following the lockdown from late-March to early June a few months of out-performance were expected. It will take another few months' figures to get a better handle on the true underlying picture."

Mr Ramsey said he expects 2021 to see a "meaningful pick-up", "but to what level remains to be seen", after Government support packages, including the furlough scheme, end, impacting on consumer spending.

Belfast Telegraph