Skoda summarises the year
Skoda is ending the year in a mood both reflective and optimistic. Last year, the Czech car maker had one of its best-ever in Ireland, finishing fifth in the overall sales charts, and as one of only three brands in the top ten to actually increase its sales through the year (Toyota and Peugeot were the others).
That was in a market that fell by 6.8 per cent overall, to a total of 117,031 sales. For 2020, Skoda's experts reckon that things will improve a little, to a probable sales total of 120,000 new cars. The company says that there is still high demand for cars in Ireland right now - witness the 12.9 per cent rise in the number of imports in 2019, and the staggering total of 307,900 imports brought into the country since the value of Sterling tanked in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
Skoda estimates that the Government's new tax on emissions of NOx will put a small brake on those imports, though. "With the introduction of the new government NOx tax from 1st January; used imports will not be as advantageous as was previous" said Skoda Ireland in its end of year round-up. "Take for example: a 2016 Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 4x4 170bhp; regardless of purchase price and excluding currency fluctuations this vehicle is subject to a further €2,400 NOx Tax in addition to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT). This is likely to increase the cost significantly of importing a used vehicle."
While Skoda's assumptions in that equation only apply to older diesel engined cars, such high NOx levies could well take some of the heat out of the import market. If that happens, the value of used cars in Ireland will go up, and that will - through increased trade-in values - have a knock-on effect on new car sales.
Not surprisingly, electric cars are very much at the forefront of many minds, but the market according to Skoda is still weighted quite dramatically in favour of conventional cars: "3,443 Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) were delivered in 2019 compared to 1,233 in the same period last year. The demand for BEVs will only increase in line with consumer awareness of climate change and new model introductions from various brands. Diesel powered vehicles accounted for 47 per cent of all vehicle sales in 2019 with 54,505 customers opting for Diesel in 2019. With electric vehicle technology, especially battery range and infrastructure still in development; petrol and Diesel vehicles will likely account for 85 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2020."
Skoda won't have a fully-electric model on sale in Ireland until late 2021 at the earliest, but it will put the new plug-in hybrid Superb on sale in 2020 and expects it to shift around 250 units in Ireland.
Skoda also points out that Irish buyers are moving steadily towards automatic transmissions. Once an exclusive purchase, one in three cars in 2019 was sold with a self-shifter. By contrast, colour trends have changed little in the last 12 months. The most popular vehicle colour of 2019 by a considerable margin was grey (43,495) followed by black (21,010). Colour trends have changed over time however. White, for example remains a very popular colour, with 17,353 vehicles delivered in 2019 - an incredible 2,205 per cent increase compared to a decade ago when only 753 customers purchased a white vehicle in 2009.
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