Car sales slumped by more than 12% in 2012 to raise fresh fears of contraction in the sector following two years of growth.
New figures published by the CSO show 76,256 new private cars were licensed in 2012 — down 10,676 vehicles on the previous year’s total.
It represents a 12.3% decrease in the number of new cars sold last year. The total number of new vehicles sold in 2012 is almost 60% off the sales level reached in 2007 when 180,754 new cars were licensed.
However, last year’s total is still substantially higher than the low of 54,432 registered in 2009.
The number of imported cars licensed last year also fell by 6.5% to 38,469.
The strong preference for motorists for vehicles with diesel engines continued. Almost 75% of new cars bought were diesel, while just 23.3% ran on petrol.
Sales of goods vehicles fell by 3% last year — down 333 units to 10,855.
Volkswagen emerged as the best-selling brand in the Republic, selling 9,782 units followed by Toyota (9,414), Ford (8,014), Nissan (5,802) and Renault (5,142).
Overall, 2012 marked another difficult year for the motor trade with a number of well-known dealerships going out of business, including a number of showrooms operated by Bill Cullen.
Commenting on the figures, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry said the results were very much in line with its own predictions.
Although large increases in the cost of motor tax announced in last year’s budget combined with increases in car insurance for females will add to motoring costs, SIMI director general Alan Nolan expressed hope the coming year would show some growth in car sales.
Car dealers are hopeful that the new registration system, which came into effect on Jan 1, will help boost new car sales in the traditionally quieter second half of the year.
All new cars sold this year will carry a registration plate beginning either “131” or “132” depending on whether the car was sold before or after Jul 1.
Mr Nolan said: “The motor industry is often used as a barometer for the economy and we hope, with consumer confidence seeing some slight pick-up of late, combined with the new number plate, that interest will grow in the coming weeks.”
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