A LATE acceleration in pre-Christmas sales has led to new car registrations in Northern Ireland hitting their highest total in nearly a decade.
Some 2,049 cars were registered in Northern Ireland in December, taking the total sales for the year to 57,324, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
That’s more than 200 more than in the whole of 2015, and is the highest figure for the region since 2007, when 68,708 new vehicles drove away from showrooms.
It comes as new car sales in the UK as a whole reached an all-time high for a second consecutive year (up 2.3 per cent on 2015 to 2,685,724), driven by strong consumer confidence, low interest finance packages and a raft of new models.
But some within the motoring industry fear the UK is at the peak of a car bubble
And SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes cautioned that registrations could decline by five or six per cent in 2017 because “we have to recognise that growth can’t be inexorable and there is undoubtedly a levelling off.”
More than 85 per cent of new cars bought in the UK are imported and their cost is “gradually going up” due to the reduction in the value of the pound, Mr Hawes said.
Although manufacturers hedge against currency risk and absorb some of the additional costs, there have been price rises of “2 per cent or 3 per cent”, he added.
Mr Hawes expects 2017 car sales to be “lumpy”, adding that, although the triggering of Article 50 for the UK to leave the EU would “probably not immediately” have an impact on purchasing patterns, he acknowledged that “we have not seen the full effects of Brexit”.
Jim Holder, editorial director of magazines Autocar and What Car?, described the 2016 figures as “very positive”, saying “the expected Brexit bump was mostly negated”.
He said some people within the automotive industry are warning that sales could drop by 10 to 15 per cent this year, so manufacturers would be “very pleased” if the SMMT’s prediction of a 5 or 6 per cent drop-off proved accurate.
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