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More cars registered in October but overall NI sales still in slow lane


The VW Golf

The VW Golf

The VW Golf

Sales of new cars increased by 5.6% in Northern Ireland during October, according to new figures.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there had been 3,344 new cars sold here last month - an increase of 176 vehicles compared to 3,168 in October last year.

However, Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the performance still marked the second weakest October for eight years.

Across the year so far, there had been 31,533 cars sold - which was a decrease of 31.9% on the first 10 months of 2019. That has given Northern Ireland the weakest performing new car sales market of the four UK regions, though only by a small margin.

The Volkswagen Golf was Northern Ireland's best-selling new car during October, with 112 sold. In the number two position was the Hyundai Tucson, with 94 sold, followed by the Ford Focus at number three, selling 88.

The Focus' smaller sister car, the Ford Fiesta, was October's 10th most best-selling car, with 69 sold.

However, the Focus and Fiestas have been the two top sellers in Northern Ireland during the year so far. There have been 909 Ford Focus sold over 2020, and 902 Fiestas.

Yuile Magee, group managing director at NI car dealership Agnew Group, said: “The lockdown in spring did create pent up demand which was reflected in sales during the summer months. For the Agnew Group sales in September and October remained strong.

"In October, premium registrations were up 22% on the previous year, which is positive as this is the main sector that we operate in. In terms of specific models, the Audi e-Tron has performed strongly in this time period.

“Overall, there is still uncertainty in the marketplace and the car retail sector, with pent up demand tailing off. However, the Agnew Group registration performance is ahead of the local NI market and our market share position has increased from 19.5% in 2019 to 22% in 2020, year to date.”

Across the UK market, car sales are down so far this year by 31%. Car showrooms were shut during the spring lockdown, but reopened here on June 8.

Car showrooms in England are now closed as part of its month-long lockdown, with Wales' two-week circuit breaker also resulting in their closure.

Car showrooms in Northern Ireland have remained open as recent coronavirus restrictions have not affected non-essential retail.

Sales of new cars are seen as an important barometer of consumer confidence.

This week a consumer confidence report by Danske Bank found people in Northern Ireland were feeling less confident about their finances due to a combination of the prospect of Brexit, the continued impact of coronavirus and general economic conditions.

The SMMT said that across the UK, the industry was now pinning its hopes on click & collect - a form of retail which is still permitted - to avoid a repeat of spring's "market wipe-out". However, it was now facing the "double hit of reduced winter trading and challenge of Brexit".

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: "When showrooms shut, demand drops, so there is a real danger that with England today entering a second lockdown, both dealers and manufacturers could face temporary closure.

"What is not in doubt, however, is that the entire industry now faces an even tougher end to the year as businesses desperately try to manage resources, stock, production and cashflow in the penultimate month before the inevitable upheaval of Brexit.

"Keeping showrooms open - some of the most Covid-secure retail environments around - would help cushion the blow but, more than ever, we need a tariff-free deal with the EU to provide some much-needed respite for an industry that is resilient but massively challenged."