More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm

Ireland’s relationship with Volkswagen is long-standing and robust, but can it weather the emissions storm? Early signs suggest it can. 

CEO for the VW Group Ireland, Simon Elliot poses with an early Dublin-assembled Beetle. Image via
CEO for VW Group Ireland, Simon Elliot poses with an early  Dublin-assembled Beetle. Image:

The relationship between Ireland and Volkswagen dates back to 1950, when local motor industry pioneer, Stephen O’ Flaherty, inaugurated assembly at the Shelbourne Road facility in Dublin, making it the first plant outside Germany to build the Beetle. The very first car assembled at Ballsbridge, an oval-screen Beetle registered ZL 2286 was subsequently acquired by VW and remains on permanent display today in Wolfsburg.

Always a popular make here, Volkswagen dominated 2015 new car registrations. Taken as a single brand, Volkswagen obtained 12.3% of the market, but leaped to almost 25% once Audi, Seat and Skoda were factored in. Add to this 14.2% of the light commercial vehicle market and 35% of heavy commercials and the German auto giant’s grip on the Irish market appears virtually unassailable*.

In the Republic of Ireland, the emissions scandal story hasn’t particularly resonated with the general populace. Not even Volkswagen management’s repeated foot-in-mouth pronouncements, not least their refusal to compensate European customers whose cars were affected has impacted noticeably on Irish motorists’ buying habits. Whereas UK and US markets have seen sales falls at the close of 2015, there’s scant evidence as yet of anything similar occurring on our storm-lashed and mildewed isle, despite a heavy dependence on diesel-engined vehicles.

A recent Irish Examiner newspaper report appears to confirm Volkswagen’s resilience. Based on a poll of around 6000 customers carried out by insurer,, 78% of existing VW owners polled said they would be prepared to buy another. Their findings also found almost 54% of non-VW owners stating the emissions scandal wouldn’t dissuade them from buying a Volkswagen. Of course it’s worth pointing out figures from the last three months of 2015 will most likely have contained pre-ordered vehicles, so a more telling marker will be how sales hold up throughout 2016.

Image via
Image via

Having collapsed 94% to just 57,460 cars following the European Central Bank bailout in 2009, car sales in Ireland have staged a strong recovery, with registrations totalling 124,945 cars and 23,722 light commercials last year. The Republic is now reported to have the oldest car stock in Europe, with an average car age of nine years, which offers good opportunities for retailers. With continued outward signs of economic recovery taking place, 2016 sales are projected to outstrip last year’s rebound, even if they’re likely to fall short of 2008’s pre-crash figure of over 151,000.

January is traditionally the busiest time of the year for new car sales and according to the Irish Independent newspaper last week, registrations to date show Volkswagen is currently lagging behind Hyundai, Toyota and Ford, but the report goes on to suggest VW’s performance traditionally strengthens as the year progresses.

So despite the Wolfsburg car giant’s image taking a knock; with customer confidence proving so robust, Volkswagen’s position in Irish hearts, minds and vehicle sales statistics appears secure – at least for now.

*Car sales figures sourced from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry body.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

5 thoughts on “More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm”

  1. What does this say about Irish consumers? That they don’t care a whole lot about mpg or emissions?

    It’s a good thing Irish buyers don’t feel the need to get a new car as often as in other countries. The car business is just a hole in the national current account with much of the price exported to the manufacturer.

    1. I don’t think they’re much different to most other places. Most people here budget month on month – oxides of nitrogen tend not to figure too highly – rightly or wrongly.

      The problem with having such an old stock of cars is that on roads such as ours, they take the most awful hammering. The fact that cars are now tested every two years is better than nothing, but there’s a lot of shocking heaps on the roads by consequence.

    2. The Irish nine year old car is not like the German nine year old car, that’s true.
      My feeling about the NCT is that it’s not run in the interests of drivers. They aren’t motivated to help people keep their car safe rather it’s about punishment and control. I think the legal requirement to drive a roadworthy car plus spot checks at the same actual frequency as biannual would do a better job. Further, the system seems capricious: people failed because there was stuff inside the car; and, if you fail you pay for another test. You should pay for the cert not the tests.
      Personally, if I was the road minister I’d end biannual testing and make it a monitoring and policing matter. Anyone could write an algorithm to for random testing on a biannual basis. It would make people check their cars regularly.
      This is another case of a duff regulatory regime in ROI.

  2. There were two Beetles registered in Dublin before ZL 2286. ZL 2229 and ZL 2275 where the registrations and it wasn’t an oval rear window, it was a split window. ZL 2286 was first registered to MDL but the records were never held to confirm it was the first.

    1. Thanks for that Darren. I might suggest that perhaps the earlier ones might have been pilot build cars, given they were split-screen models, as you point out. A number of Irish VW enthusiasts are working to document in book form the history of Irish Beetle production by MDL from 1950 to 1977, when the final Beetle was assembled at the Naas Road plant. Perhaps this research will cast further light upon the subject.

      I believe there is a similar lack of clarity as to whether the official ‘first-ever’ production Mini was indeed the earliest. As with the above scenario, it probably didn’t seem all that important at the time.

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