Northern Ireland avoids big slump in car purchases amid slow start to 2018
Car sales in Northern Ireland have avoided the big slump which has been seen elsewhere in the UK during a slow start to 2018, new figures show.
The number of new vehicles powering out of showrooms here fell by 1.4% in January, down to 6,049, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
But the UK as a whole saw sales plummet by 6.3%, with Scotland facing the largest fall of 15.1%.
The Ford Fiesta was the most popular car in Northern Ireland last month - with 266 sold.
That was followed by the Volkswagen Golf on 226 and Hyundai Tucson with 159.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said that the "slide in car sales continues" in Northern Ireland.
"Northern Ireland's more modest declines in car sales must be viewed in the context that Northern Ireland never fully recovered to its pre-recession levels, whereas Scotland, Wales and England did," he added.
Some of the other top selling models in Northern Ireland include the Skoda Superb, with 147 cars and the Vauxhall Mokka X with 135.
Across the UK as a whole, demand fell across the board, with registrations by business, private and fleet buyers down 29.7%, 9.5% and 1.8%, respectively.
Just over 163,600 cars were driven off forecourts in January in total.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "The ongoing and substantial decline in new diesel car registrations is concerning, particularly since the evidence indicates consumers and businesses are not switching into alternative technologies, but keeping their older cars running.
He added: "Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, we need government policy to encourage take-up of the latest advanced low emission diesels as, for many drivers, they remain the right choice economically and environmentally."
Dual purpose cars (SUVs) were the only vehicle segment to see growth, with demand up 6.6% to account for one-fifth of all new car registrations.
Registrations of petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rose, up by 8.5% and 23.9% respectively.
Demand for new diesel cars fell 25.6% as "confusion" over government policy continued to cause buyers to hesitate, said the SMMT.
The society said its latest figures show the importance of diesel cars and engines to the UK economy.
Last year, more than two in five of the cars leaving UK production lines were diesels, while manufacturers also produced more than one million engines, directly supporting around 3,350 jobs.
Meanwhile, last year, the sale of luxury sports car sales soared 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, which was 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.
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.
Speaking about the spike in luxury car sales last year, Mr Ramsey said: "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."