New car sales up 5.3% in February despite Covid lockdown restrictions

End of reduced VAT rate from March 1st led to strong pre-orders last month

New car sales in February are up 5.3 per cent on the same month last year despite Level 5 Covid lockdown restrictions. Total new registrations came to 13,834 last month, up 696. However, part of the growth may be down to buyers bringing forward their purchases to avail of the reduced VAT rate of 21 per cent during the first two months of the year.

So far this year, the new car market is down 10.6 per cent, with 38,986 registrations in the first two months of 2021, compared to 43,788 for the same period last year.

According to Brian Cooke, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry: "Strong pre-orders at the end of last year, along with the ability to offer a click and deliver service have helped the industry, as has the reduced VAT rate during the first two months of the year, which has brought some March sales forward.

“Looking ahead to March, with most year-end pre-orders having been fulfilled, the increased VAT rate [of 23 per cent] and with the absence of car hire, it is anticipated that the month ahead will be a challenging one for the industry.”



February saw a 53 per cent increase on the same month last year for pre-registrations – cars registered by motor traders often as demonstrator models and then sold on later to private buyers as low-mileage used cars.

The number of new cars registered by the motor trade itself rose by 670 to 1,932 last month compared to February last year. It represented 14 per cent of all new registrations last month.

There was also a rise in the number of company registrations, up 40 per cent for the month to 845 new cars. However, the hire-drive market is still flat, with just 176 new registrations compared to 1,719 in February 2020.

The best-selling brand so far this year is Toyota, with 5,547 registrations, ahead of Hyundai with 4,142, Volkswagen with 3,989, and Skoda with 3,455. Ford is in fifth place with 3,320.

The best-selling new model is the new Hyundai Tucson with 2,284 registrations, followed by a trio of Toyotas; the Corolla, Rav4 and Yaris.

Two Rolls Royce

At the top end of the market, two Rolls Royces have been registered here this year, including a new Phantom which would have cost its buyer in excess of €750,000. At the slightly more affordable end of the luxury car market, Audi remains the top-selling premium brand with 1,374 registrations, ahead of Mercedes-Benz with 1,286 and BMW with 1,236.

Diesel sales continue to slide and now represent 36.3 per cent of the market, compared to 44 per cent this time last year, while petrol sales have also fallen to 33.6 per cent, from 39 per cent at the end of February 2020. In contrast, hybrid sales now account for over 25 per cent, while sales of new all-electric cars now account for 4.9 per cent.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times