It’s been a luxurious time this first half of January for more drivers as sales of the three main German premium brands have had major increases over last year.
It might be the draw of the new 201 plate, a desire to splash the cash or deciding to buy a big diesel while they are still relatively acceptable.
Whatever, Mercedes-Benz sales were up nearly 70pc in the first 15 days of the year, BMW’s were up 43pc and Audi’s increased by 21pc.
This added up to 1,731 cars for these three brands sold compared with 1,108 during the same time last year, accounting for nearly 10.5pc of the overall market compared with less than 7pc in 2019.
In addition to those three marques, there were also big increases for Lexus, while Porsche delivered 26 cars in the first two weeks compared with just one last year.
Of course, sales of the big three German brands were still way under those of the leading car marque in the early days of the year.
This was Toyota whose 2,289 sales were 700 up on last year, mainly because of the new Corolla hybrid which sold 887 units against only 55 last year.
The Corolla eventually became the country’s most sold car last year. In the first two weeks of 2020, Hyundai’s Tucson and Kona were the second and third placed cars, with respectively 787 and 596 sales. Hyundai’s much-anticipated new i10 is just arriving in the showrooms and should be another huge success as it has consistently been the top city car in the country.
Ireland is the first European country to launch the new i10. At the moment, the Korean marque lies second in the overall sales table.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest changes in the market has been the growth of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, both of which went up nearly 90pc in the first two weeks of the year, going up respectively from 1,185 to 2,258 and 152 to 287.
While sales of fully electric vehicles were only marginally up at 381, this could be because of a chaotic system, which, according to one of the leading EV suppliers, has led to many customers unable to get their cars as they are waiting for grants to be processed.
The trend for SUV/crossovers shows no signs of abating this year, with 12 of the top cars being this style, with that dozen taking a combined 30.5pc of the market in the first two weeks.
The success of the Toyota Corolla, last year and early this year, reinforces the view of Steve Tormey, CEO of Toyota Ireland, that hybrid is the best option for most Irish drivers looking for an electrified drive.
Toyota made the decision to invest in hybrid technology more than 20 years ago as a key principle of its contribution towards sustainable development.
Here the company was ahead of governments and consumers in foreseeing the decline in the conventional diesel and petrol cars in its move towards less polluting, more environmentally friendly options.
In Ireland, Toyota claims that its hybrids sold in 2019 will result in the reduction of 60,000 tonnes of CO2 from the environment over the course of their lifetime.
Tormey says that Toyota has advanced its hybrid technology so much over the past 20 years that the latest-generation hybrids drive in zero emissions mode 62pc of the time on average during daily commuting conditions.
“We are proud to say that Toyota is already delivering the lowest CO2 output of any car brand in Ireland. In fact, our average CO2 output across our range in Ireland was 17pc lower than the top 10 best-selling car brands,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kia plans to transition to an EV-based business system ahead of competitors, leveraging its production capabilities in manufacturing internal combustion engine vehicles.
By prioritising future customer value, the company also plans to develop and release innovative EV models, offering a differentiated product appeal, such as an EV-specialised design, user experience and quality.
Starting with the launch of its maiden dedicated EV model in 2021, Kia will establish a full EV line-up of 11 models by 2025, adding new EV models to its line-up along the way, including passenger vehicles, SUVs and MPVs from 2022.
The Green Party was pretty honest last week when it launched its campaign for the forthcoming General Election. Farmers and motorists might not have been too pleased by what was said, but the party acknowledged that there will be hard and unpopular choices that will have to be made in Ireland to tackle the climate emergency and hit environmental targets.
“It won’t be easy because we’re changing everything,” party leader Eamon Ryan said. He added that the “entire transport system, the entire food system, the entire energy system for the better, it’ll take a decade at least to even start properly so this election is about the decade ahead, not just the next four or five years”.
Eamon believes that the “Irish people are ready to do it, what’s happened in the last year has changed everything”.
However, he did say that the millions spent on motorways – including the €200m Castlebar to Westport road, which he dubbed the “Michael Ring Road” – would be better spent on improved public transport systems.
That is all very well except rural communities deserve safer and better roads because the sparse population in some areas means they will be waiting a long time to get a worthwhile public transport system. It is fine that Belmullet was named a great tourist destination but if people can’t get there without having to travel on a poor road, they won’t be going at all.
I want to see a big Green vote as their influence is needed in government or else the climate change agenda will not be pushed through.
However, they are also guilty of mistakes. The massive change in the emissions-based road tax system in 2008 was a disaster and led to many people buying diesels who shouldn’t have gone anywhere near one.
SUVs and luxury saloons were soon paying the same road tax as a small city car. The whole idea of killer NOx emissions fell under the radar.
That it was almost a Europe-wide policy was no excuse. We should expect more of our politicians than blind group-think.