We ran a piece earlier this week on VW’s sales in the Republic of Ireland which was such a resounding success we decided to run another today on some of the wider trends in the Irish market for 2016. It’s no trouble…
January car sales for the Republic of Ireland have been announced and as predicted show significant gains with 39,812 registrations; up 33.6% over the same period last year. Firmly in the lead is Hyundai, followed closely by Toyota and Ford. Last year’s sales winner, VW has slipped back; an Irish Times report suggesting this may be a consequence of the ongoing emissions revelations, although given VW’s sales have also risen, that’s just conjecture.
Traditionally dominated by C-sector cars, 2016 appears to be marking a decisive shift in buyer behaviour towards the compact crossover. It’s no surprise, the segment is growing right across Europe, but here in our sodden Isle, its appeal is bracingly obvious especially when attempting to traverse the Republic’s network of crumbling roads – many of which remain submerged owing to a succession of winter storms.
This goes some way to explaining the Hyundai Tucson’s number one spot. In its favour, the Tucson is new, competitively priced and from a manufacturer building a solid base in the Irish market. By illustration, January saw the first right-hand-drive deliveries of the 2016 Kia Sportage, its predecessor a regular in Ireland’s top ten.
What else is stands out amidst this deluge of data? Alfa Romeo once maintained a respectable customer base in Ireland, witnessed by the thousands of 156’s and 159’s still on our roads. But that popularity is a distant memory now. Last year 43 Alfa Romeos were sold across the entire 26 counties. A grand total of eight were registered in January – each and every one almost certainly a dealer demonstrator. The market used to be here, but for years now, the cars simply haven’t. The Giulia, when it finally does arrive will find itself I fear, playing to an empty stadium.
Once a major player, Fiat is now in serious decline, with overall sales down 74% on pre-crisis levels. 172 new Fiat cars were registered in Ireland last month, and I’m afraid the news wasn’t much better through 2015 – FCA selling 634 Fiats and 93 Jeep-branded cars last year. The Irish have little interest in Fiat’s current offerings, the 500 model languishing in 99th place in January, with the 500X in 145th. Worse still for FCA, a recent survey here found only 28% of Fiat owners polled would be willing to buy another.
Ironically, the new tre-volumi Tipo model would probably appeal here, but is unlikely to be made available in right hand drive form. Perhaps the forthcoming hatchback model can help arrest matters, but frankly it will have its work cut out. Jeep has made no inroads either. Now I enjoy a spot of Marchionne bashing as well as the next man, but figures such as these really do question the sort of presence FCA might want to maintain in the Republic – or indeed whether to have one at all.
Meanwhile Alfa Romeo’s actual rivals are vacuuming up their customers. From a very low base line, both Jaguar and Land Rover have posted sharp gains – Jaguar up 50%, LR up 64% in January. Jaguar’s XE can be ordered now, should you want one, not at some as yet undefined period in the distant future. Volvo too is on the rise and is likely to further erode Alfa’s heartland.
PSA have no reason to feel smug either. Despite a positive performance from Peugeot – up 24%, Citroën’s slump wiped out any gains. The chevron, never a huge seller in conservative Ireland was best placed in 106th position with the Picasso MPV, followed by the C4 Cactus at 110th. PSA, like FCA and to some extent, Renault, are paying a bitter price for years of apathy and a that’ll do mentality that has alienated Irish buyers, propelling them into the arms of South East Asia’s marques.
The Republic’s car market is small by European standards and differs markedly from that of the UK, its closest neighbour. Saloons are still favoured over hatchbacks. Mini-cars don’t sell particularly well, nor does anything overtly cute or quirky. Vanity purchases of cabriolets or sportscars are rare, while premium marques also remain niche players. The Irish keep their cars longer than the Euro-norm and owing to the shocking state of the road network and the testing regime currently in place, they have a tough life – especially in predominantly rural counties.
Car sales figures are frequently bandied about as a barometer of consumer confidence and with a general election only weeks away, these figures will undoubtedly be pounced upon to illustrate how well Ireland’s economy has been managed following the disaster of the banking collapse. But with such gains largely due to the renewed availability of cheap credit and with little of a substantive nature resolved either domestically or within the wider Eurozone, this recovery could prove as illusory as Alfa Romeo’s volume predictions. Meanwhile, we’re braced for the next weather front.
Car sales data sourced from beep.beep.com via Irish Times and SIMI