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Northern Ireland Porsche sales hit record high despite economic downturn

Sales of new Porsches reached an all-time high in Northern Ireland last year despite a sluggish economy and an overall fall in car sales.

A total of 240 Porsches were sold in 2019, overtaking the 238 sold in 2007 at the peak of the property boom, according to research by Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey.

The previous high came during a period of economic buoyancy, with many people feeling enriched by the rocketing value of property - although the property crash soon followed.

However, a wider range of Porsches are now being sold, with large numbers of bulky SUVs drawing new categories of Porsche buyer.

But they all have a hefty price tag in common - for example, the SUV Porsche Cayenne costs from £57,000, to £123,000 for a top of the range model.

Meanwhile, Aston Martins also had a record year in Northern Ireland, with 29 sold compared to 15 the year before.

Prices for a new Aston Martin range from £120,900 for an Aston Martin Vantage to £225,000 for the DBS Superleggera.

By contrast, no Rolls-Royce were sold here in 2019, compared to seven taking to our roads during 2018.

Ciaran Woods, a dealer in Co Londonderry who trades in classic Porsches, said they often had a hold on their owners.

"Rich people might buy one, not caring about the car but just because it's something to buy when they're bored on a Wednesday," he said.

"But others buy it for either transport or just as something visually beautiful to look at and keep in the garage.

"I think buying a Porsche is like achieving a boyhood dream. They probably had toys and posters on their wall of the car when they were little so then it's an amazing feeling when you finally own one and you worked hard for it."

But Mr Ramsey said the rising levels of Porsche sales did not signify a general economic upturn for Northern Ireland.

Figures last month showed that new car sales across all categories had fallen by 7% during 2019.

Mr Ramsey said: "Even when the Northern Ireland economy is in the doldrums, you'll have individuals and sectors who are doing well.

"So the increase in sales of Porsches isn't necessarily a sign that a lot of people doing well."

But Mr Ramsey said the growth for brands like Porsche did reflect the growing popularity of four-wheel drive SUVs, with luxury car brands moving into the space once dominated by Range Rover and Jeep.

"It's a reflection of consumer preference. People do like driving SUVs, mainly because of the higher driving position. It's as much about fashion and what people like as anything else," he added.

"What they've tried to do is make a premium brand apply to a bigger market, with things like Maserati SUVs.

"Luxury saloons are now out of fashion. While once the BMW 3 series and Audi A4 would have been mainstay of luxury car sales, it's now the SUV market."

Sales of Ferraris were also at a new high of 31, according to Mr Ramsey, following analysis of figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

And there was an 11% increase in Jaguar sales up to a high of 457, from 413 a year earlier.

Jeff McCartney, sales operations director at Charles Hurst, which is the sole franchise holder for Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati and Bentley on the island of Ireland, said the Northern Ireland market for premium luxury cars was buoyant.

"Among our long-established customers, brand loyalty is consistently resilient - these buyers will take very good care of their vehicles and buy again from new within two or three years.

"However, the buyer profile continues to change. They are increasingly younger, more entrepreneurial and they definitely know what they want.

"Women also feature much more predominantly in our regular inquiries when compared with a decade ago and the new designs, features and specifications continue to evolve to accommodate a widening range of tastes among discerning buyers."

But despite the rise in sales of Porsches, Aston Martins and Jaguars, the market for luxury saloons shrunk by 21%, according to the SMMT.

In 2018, 19 Bentley Continentals were sold in Northern Ireland, and four Bentley Flying Spurs. But in 2019, only 14 Continentals were sold.

The number of BMW 7 Series also shrank from 44 to 33. And the numbers of Mercedes S Class taking to the roads also dropped for the first time from 33 to 27.

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