Bumper month for car sales in Northern Ireland with nearly 5,000 bought
Car showrooms in Northern Ireland saw their best May in 11 years with new sales up more than 12%, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
After recording the weakest first quarter in six years, new car registrations bounced back in the second quarter.
The 4,931 new sales during May marked a 12.48% improvement on the same month last year and the best May in Northern Ireland for over a decade. Over the year to date, car sales here were up 0.6%.
Citroen's C3 topped the table for the second time in 2019 as the most popular new car. In fact, three of the four best-selling new cars during May were Citroens. They out performed long-time favourites like Ford's Fiesta and Volkswagen's Golf. Skoda's new 2019 Octavia model also entered the top 10 for the first time in 2019.
The 547 year-on-year rise in new cars in May meant Northern Ireland was the only UK region to have recorded more new car registrations so far in 2019 than it did in the first five months of 2018.
England, Scotland and Wales have all recorded year-to-date falls of 3-4%. Across the UK, new car sales fell from 1.08 million to 1.04 million in the first five months of the year. Scotland saw the worst fall last month, with sales dropping by 1,552, almost 10%.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the second quarter of 2019 is already looking significantly better in Northern Ireland. But he said the double-digit rise is less impressive when put in a long-range context. He said: "Despite the latest rise, the volume of new car sales in Northern Ireland over the last twelve months are some 23% below 2007's levels.
"UK new car sales hit a record high in 2016 and are just 2.5% lower than the sales volumes in 2007. Therefore Northern Ireland's significant rise in May is coming off a low base."
The economist said the recent pick-up in sales were likely reflective of more attractive pricing and flexible finance options.
"Traditionally, new car purchases are viewed as a key barometer of consumer confidence, as a car represents the largest discretionary expenditure item after a house," he added.
"In recent years, however, leasing cars has become more popular and affordable. Car leasing and the Motability scheme account for an increasing share of overall car sales."