Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland new car sales lowest in six years... but hybrid models celebrate growth

By Emma Deighan

Drivers are increasingly choosing hybrid and plug-in models according to car sales research.

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) also revealed that the greener car sector's share hit record levels last month as UK car sales were up 1.2% with 163,898 cars joining the roads.

The monthly stats from the trade organisation were slightly different in Northern Ireland where 3,714 new cars were registered in July 2018, a drop of 2.55% on the same time last year and -3.4% lower that the overall year-to-date figures.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist, said less consumer spending has resulted in car sales being at their weakest in six years here.

"This is some 3.4% below the corresponding period last year and over 8% lower than the same period in 2016. Consumer spending remains relatively subdued with pay increases lagging behind inflation," he said.

"Motor fuel costs have posted significant rises in recent months with further notable increases in utility bills expected later this year.

"Both 2018 and 2019 are expected to see household incomes remain under pressure. As a result, purchasing a new car is likely to remain lower down the list of priorities than it perhaps was over a decade ago. Overall 2018 is expected to post the third annual decline in four years in new car sales."

He added: "But as in all markets there will always be winners and losers with brands battling for what buyers are out there."

In terms of fuel type sales, the UK market followed the trend of previous months, with diesel registrations falling -24.4% as petrol demand grew 20.1%.

Meanwhile, alternatively fuelled vehicles enjoyed an uplift of 21.0%, with market share of hybrids and plug-ins reaching a record 6.5%. Growth was particularly strong for plug-in hybrids, up by a third (33.5%), while hybrid registrations grew 17.5%, followed by battery electric cars, up 2.4%."

In Northern Ireland the top five car models of July 2018 were Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Yaris.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "The feel-good factor from a sun and sport-packed July, combined with some fantastic deals on a raft of exciting new models, clearly helped keep showrooms relatively busy. It's great to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefiting from this growth.

"Government's acknowledgement of the vital role new-tech diesel will play in its Road to Zero strategy should help motorists benefit even more."

Belfast Telegraph

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