Car sales collapse as Covid-19 begins to impact

Car sales dropped by 96% in April and sales of light vans also took an 87% hit as the COVID-19 restrictions closed motor dealerships across Ireland

The latest figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show that new car registrations for April declined 96.1% as just 344 new cars were registered when compared to the April 2019 figure of 8,904 new car registrations. As a result of COVID-19 retailer’s showrooms have remained closed since Mid-March, impacting heavily on sales. Registrations year to date are down 30.7% at 50,626 new cars compared with the 73,030 new cars for the same period last year.

The commercial vehicle sector is also feeling the impact of closures, with Light Commercials vehicles (LCV) down 87.3% with sales of just 229 vans compared to the April 2019 figure of 1,799 vans, while the year to date are down by 25.3%. HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) registrations are down 67.8% to just 98 trucks in April in comparison to April 2019 when 304 new trucks were registered..

Used car imports for April at 199 cars have seen a decrease of 97.8% on April 2019 when 8,887 used cars were imported. While year to date used car imports are down by 50.5% to 17,669 cars from 35,719 in 2019.

Brian Cooke, SIMI director general said, “Like many other sectors of the economy, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the Irish Motor Industry. SIMI members have during the course of the lockdown to date, been available to assist in emergency and essential call outs. We continue to play our part in keeping vital goods and services moving.

“However, the registration numbers underline the lack of activity in new vehicle sales, and this is replicated for used cars and servicing,” he added. “While the short-term outlook for the Irish economy is bleak, once the health situation allows the motor sector is ready to get back to work. Members have used this downtime to implement measures, in accordance with both Industry and State guidelines, that will protect both their employees and customers against the spread of COVID-19. The size of dealerships and the average footfall, for both sales and servicing, lends itself to social distancing. While santisation measures being put in place for both premises and vehicles, means that safety and protection are at the top of the agenda.

With the July registration period approaching, the motor sector will be well placed to help start activity in the Irish economy. This has the potential to protect the nearly 50,000 people in employment in the sector, increasing Government Revenues, improving the safety of the cars on Irish roads, while also improving Ireland’s environmental performance by replacing old cars with new or newer cars.

“In this context, continuation of the current supports and cash flow benefits from Revenue will be important, while additional measures such as the cancelling of rates bills, and reductions in VAT and VRT would be very helpful as would the immediate re-opening of NCT and commercial vehicle test centres,” according to the SIMI director general.

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