NI luxury car sales power ahead in 2017
Top brands buck trend in a tough year for industry
Luxury sports car sales are soaring in Northern Ireland, buoyed by top brands such as Maserati and Aston Martin.
The number of Aston Martins - the cheapest models go for around £90,000 - sold here tripled in the last year, new figures show.
Twenty-seven were sold in 2017, up from nine the previous year.
And Maserati had its best year ever here, selling 81 models.
That's up from 34 a year earlier.
Overall, new car sales in Northern Ireland suffered a huge slump of 12.2% in December, reflecting the position in the rest of the UK, where purchases plummeted by 14.4%.
A total of 1,800 cars were driven away from local showrooms by customers.
That was down from 2,049 during December 2016, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
It was the luxury brands leading the way in terms of sales here during the course of the year.
Aside from sports models, a range of other top premium marques performed well in 2017.
"The falling overall market conceals diverging performance at a brand level," said Ulster Ban chief economist Richard Ramsey.
"Indeed, sales of premium brand cars such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz and Porsche hit a record high of close to 10,700 vehicles.
"This represents the sixth successive annual rise in premium car sales, albeit the weakest rise in the sequence.
"The premium market now accounts for one in five of all new cars sold in Northern Ireland. Conversely, sales of non-premium brands saw the pace of decline accelerate last year by almost 7% to a five-year low."
The top performing car here in December was the Citroen C3, with 82 sold.
That was followed in second place by the Hyundai Tucson on 62.
The Ford Kuga was third, shifting 60 models.
Speaking about the spike in luxury car sales, Mr Ramsey added: "Bentley sales jumped 52%, to an 11-year high.
"Ferrari sales rose by over one-quarter to 19 in 2017, two shy of 2015's high.
"Unlike in 2016, there were no sales of Rolls Royce or Lamborghinis in 2017."
The Scottish new car market came off worst overall in December, with numbers dropping 21.7%, while English sales dropped 14.1%, followed by Wales on 5%.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: "2017 has undoubtedly been a very volatile year and the lacklustre economic growth means that we expect a further weakening in the market for 2018."