60,000 new cars sold in Ireland in Q1 despite pandemic

Podcast Ep 58: Ireland’s motor sector enjoyed astonishing progress despite level 5 restrictions, selling 60,000 new cars. Bank of Ireland head of Motor Sector Stephen Healy discusses trends.

Ireland’s motor sector adapted to the challenge of level 5 restrictions and managed to sell 60,000 new vehicles in the first quarter.

However, compared with Q1 2020, sales in the first quarter were down 3pc year-on-year, according to the most recent Bank of Ireland Motor Sector newsletter compiled by head of Motor Sector Stephen Healy.

“Mid-term the total cost of ownership of EVs is expected to reach parity with internal combustion engines by 2025”

Speaking with ThinkBusiness, Healy said that achieving 60,000 new car sales was nevertheless a “huge achievement by the sector” in the face of Level 5 restrictions.

E-commerce delivers


Under these restrictions, dealers were open for servicing, parts and body repairs but all vehicle sales were digital.

Another area for hope for the sector was van sales, which were up 22pc in the first quarter with sales on par with the first quarter of 2020.

Healy said there was a correlation between van sales and the rise of e-commerce. “Van sales were strong as companies replaced or expanded fleets, including a rise in home deliveries.”

In the UK, van sales were even stronger – up 43pc in the quarter.

The electric vehicle train is coming and it is stopping at all stations

Sales of electric vehicles ticked up in March to 11.3pc of new car sales in the month. Some 68pc of electric vehicle sales are attributed to three models – the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model 3, and the new Volkswagen I.D. 4, which just launched here in March.

In fact, the Volkswagen I.D.4 was the overall bestselling car in the market in March.

“It will be interesting to watch as it develops. EU governments have hitched their wagons to the electric vehicle train. Government policy coupled with EU emissions directives are driving this change and manufacturers are launching more low emission vehicles to meet emissions targets.”

Despite the accelerated demand for electric vehicles, Healy said change will take time due to the higher cost of electric vehicles, range anxiety and consumers generally being slow to adopt new technologies.

Looking to the future though, there is no doubt the future is electric. “Manufacturers are releasing more versions of electric vehicles (EV) with longer ranges and global EV sales are increasing. “Volkswagen launched the ID.4, a mid-sized SUV, and it was the best overall car in the Republic of Ireland in March.

“Mid-term the total cost of ownership of EVs is expected to reach parity with internal combustion engines by 2025.”

Healy said that continued Government subsidies will be vital in increasing EV adoptions.

In Europe major trends include manufacturers beginning to invest in EV production. “For example, Volkswagen is planning six European battery cell plants by 2030, which is positive from a supply chain perspective, with less reliance on Asian markets. Northvolt, a company started by former Tesla executives in 2017 has secured a $14bn supply deal with Volkswagen and wants to supply 25pc of the European EV market by 2030.

“The EV train is coming but it will take time for consumers to make the switch. In the meantime, manufacturers have a great range of low emission petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles on offer” Healy said.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 22 April 2021