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Northern Ireland new car sales on rise for July, but yearly figures no cause for optimism

NI still remains the best-performing region in the UK where others have suffered drops of almost 5% in sales throughout July.
NI still remains the best-performing region in the UK where others have suffered drops of almost 5% in sales throughout July.
New car sales in Northern Ireland rose last month, the only region in the UK to experience growth, but the yearly figures weren't as favourable. (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

New car sales in Northern Ireland rose last month, the only region in the UK to experience growth, but the yearly figures weren't as favourable.

In total 3,758 new cars were sold here, a rise of 1.18% on last July but a decrease of 0.32% to 34,595 for the year to date, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

NI still remains the best-performing region in the UK where others have suffered drops of almost 5% in sales throughout July. On average new cars sales throughout the UK were down by 4.1% by the end of July 2019. This meant that on a whole in the UK new car sales were at their lowest in seven years for the year.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the comparable statistics were nothing to get excited about. He said: "Northern Ireland's sales figures may compare favourably against England, Scotland and Wales for 2019, but it should be remembered that local dealers posted steeper falls in the last recession and a much weaker recovery. England, Scotland and Wales all posted record sales volumes in 2016/17.

"Conversely, Northern Ireland has failed to see a return to the new car sales volumes recorded in 2006 and 2007. Currently, new car sales here (over the last 12 months) are running at just over three-quarters of 2007 levels.

"Taking a look over the longer term reveals a familiar trend - new car sales in Northern Ireland have been broadly flat or falling for the last five years. Seven months into 2019, local dealers have notched up 34,595 new car sales. This is down marginally (0.3%) on the corresponding period last year and marks the weakest January-July period for sales volumes in six years. By comparison, the first seven months of 2006 and 2007 saw 44,388 and 46,589 new cars sold."

In Northern Ireland the most popular car sold in July 2019 was the Nissan Qashqai followed by the Ford Kuga, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Tucson and the Ford Focus. The Ford Fiesta is Northern Ireland's best-selling car for the year followed by the Volkswagen Golf.

One of the most positive readings from the SMMT survey was a UK-wide surge in demand and sales of hybrid electric cars and battery electric vehicles. The report revealed that registrations of diesel vehicles fell for the 28th month, down by 22.1%, while petrols remained stable, with 2,646 more registrations than in July 2018, but hybrid electric cars increased by 34.2% and demand for battery electric vehicles shot up by 158.1%, resulting in a 1.4% market share, the highest monthly market share on record.

Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles continued their recent decline, down 49.6%.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "If the UK is to meet its environmental ambitions government must create the right conditions to drive uptake, including long-term incentives and investment in infrastructure.

"The fastest way to address air quality concerns is through fleet renewal so buyers need to be given the confidence to invest in the new, cleaner vehicles that best suit their driving needs, regardless of how they are powered."

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