In line with a general rise in consumer spending, car sales rose by more than one third last month compared to the same period last year.
Consumer sentiment also surged to a 15-year high in January.
The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index climbed to 108.6 in January from 103.9 in December, its highest level since February 2001.
“The strongest element of the January results was in relation to purchasing intentions,” said KBC chief economist Austin Hughes.
“For the first time since 2006, slightly more consumers reported an improvement rather than a deterioration in their personal finances over the past year,” he said.
In line with that, a significant increase in spending on holidays has seen Irish travel agents record an unprecedented level of booking enquiries last month. Some members of the Irish Travel Agents’ Association recorded sales increases of up to 40% compared with the first month of last year.
The latest spending index from Visa Europe also shows double-digit spending growth in hotels, restaurants and bars while spending on transport — largely fuelled by new car sales — was also up significantly compared with 2015.
However, it is the rise in car sales and, in particular, goods vehicles that analysts see as strong indicators of economic growth.
The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal that the number of new car sales last month was 34.8% higher than for January 2015. The figures show that 27,106 new cars were licensed for the first time in January, compared with 20,105 over the same period in 2015.
The January sales figures show that the most popular car manufacturer was Toyota with 3,666 new cars purchased. Next was Hyundai (3,405), followed by Ford (3,351), and Volkswagen (2,368).
Toyota’s market share has fallen 1% to 13.5% from last January, while Hyundai’s is 2.4% higher at 12.6%.
Volkswagen registered a 0.7% drop in its share from January 2015, down to 8.7% last month.
The number of new goods vehicles licensed in January also increased compared to the beginning of last year, with a 36% rise to 2,789.
The total number of all new vehicles licensed during January was 31,150, compared with 23,152 during the same month in 2015 — representing a rise of 34.5%.
At the same time, the volume of secondhand cars imported to Ireland dropped by 3.8% to 3,848.
Consumer sentiment at its highest for 15 years: page 16.
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