Irish people are more likely to drive a new car than most other EU citizens, according to official EU figures.
A new report published by the European Commission shows Irish motorists have the joint third highest ownership of vehicles under two years old among the 27 EU member states, together with Austria.
They reveal 380,240 vehicles less than two years old in the Republic — 16.6% of all registered passenger cars.
Motorists in Luxembourg had the highest proportion of new cars of any EU nationality at 22% followed by France with 16.7%.
At the same time, however, there are signs that the national passenger car fleet in the Republic is beginning to age as the proportion of cars under two years old in 2015 was almost 21% — around four percentage points higher than the current rate.
The latest figures show Ireland also has the second highest share of cars between two and five years old at 27.7% behind Luxembourg with 28.3%.
Although cars over 10 years old account for 29% of all cars on Irish roads — almost 672,000 vehicles — it is the second lowest share of older cars within the EU with only Luxembourg having a smaller share of older vehicles with 24%.
Nevertheless, the proportion of cars 10 years or older in Ireland has increased by four percentage points from 25% in 2015.
The vast majority of cars in several EU countries are in excess of 10 years old, particularly Lithuania, Romania, and Poland where they account for approximately 80% of all cars.
The figures show 40% of cars in Poland are more than 20 years old.
The European Commission said several countries had offered programmes supporting the purchase of new cars with low emissions while scrapping the owners’ old cars.
It noted the general aim of such scrappage schemes was the renewal of the passenger car fleet with lower emissions cars, while also stimulating the economy.
However, the European Commission said initiatives to encourage renewal of national car fleets had been hampered by restrictions introduced to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and disruptions to supply chains in the motor industry.
Earlier this year, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) suggested there was a need for a new scrappage scheme to assist motorists who wanted to change to lower emissions models.
SIMI said government financial assistance would be needed to ensure that everyone could afford to make the change over to electric vehicles after a consultant’s report highlighted the need for at least 100,000 new EV charging points.
“We need to support all motorists to trade up to newer, less polluting cars. This has two clear benefits; it can deliver an immediate reduction in overall emissions and it can shorten the journey time for all owners into an electric vehicle,” said SIMI director general Brian Cooke.
The European Commission report shows the proportion of alternative energy, new cars sold in Ireland has risen consistently in recent years albeit from a very low base.
The share of non-diesel and non-petrol cars sold in the Republic increased from less than 1% in 2018 to 4.4% in 2020, the latest EU-wide figures reveal.
However, Ireland’s rate of cars using alternative fuel is only the 14th highest in the EU and compares with 25% in Germany and 21% in the Netherlands.
The report shows a majority of all new cars registered in Norway in 2020 were powered by alternative fuels.