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The fall-off in demand for new diesel cars is graphically outlined in the latest official figures.

They show a 20pc plunge in diesel registrations so far this year.

The Society of Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) statistics reveal how diesel registrations have fallen from 50,714 for the first quarter of 2017 to 40,433 for the corresponding period this year.

At the same time, the volume of new petrol-car registrations has shot up by around 20pc to 26,941.

New hybrid sales are also soaring with 3,895 registrations representing growth of 64.9pc and a sign that people are switching from diesel to hybrid as part of the move towards electrification.

Toyota is the biggest seller of hybrids on the Irish market. Its hybrid mix for all passenger cars is now 50pc in the year to date. It climbed to 58pc for the month of March.

Overall new-car registrations are down 5.5pc – to 71,842 – this year with March figures dropping 10.5pc to 17,796. Apart from the impact of used imports, the combination of bad weather and the early Easter have no doubt been felt. At the same time, however, the level of hire-car sales would have helped keep up registration levels.

Significantly, UK import numbers are up 9.45pc – to 26,116 – but registrations for March are down 4.6pc.

The number of electric cars registered so far is down from 298 to 282, but that is more a matter of supply than demand.

The arrival of Nissan’s new LEAF (see P3) as well as the presence of Hyundai’s Ioniq and Renault’s Zoe should boost numbers significantly over the year.

Some will see the plunge in diesel sales as vindication of the forecast that the fuel is dead as far as passenger cars are concerned.

There is an element of truth in that in the long term, but it also has to be factored in that we are witnessing a rebalancing to levels prior to 2008 when petrol was the major fuel source.

The figures also detail the best-selling marques this year, with Volkswagen leading the way ahead of Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Nissan, Skoda, Renault, KIA, Mercedes and Audi.

The statistics also show the Nissan Qashqai has, for now, taken over the mantle of the country’s most popular car, narrowly edging the evergreen Hyundai Tucson. But it is still early days.

In third place is the Volkswagen Golf, followed by the Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia, KIA Sportage, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Tiguan and the Nissan Micra.

SIMI director general Alan Nolan said March had been a challenging month, with snow days and two public holidays leading to shorter trading weeks.

He added: “Brexit, however, remains the dominant issue, with used car imports up 9.5pc for the first quarter while new-car registrations are down 5.5pc over the same period.”

Overall registrations remain “in line with projections based on the continuing impact of Brexit and the increasing volume of imported used cars”.

He highlighted the reduction in diesel’s share of the market from 67pc last year to 56pc in 2018.

“This will have implications for our CO2 targets, as the average emissions from a new car (113.2g/km) this year have increased by 1.5g/km on the corresponding period in 2017.

“This would produce a calculated increase of around 2,000 tonnes in annual CO2 for the new cars registered this year.” Used imports this year had average CO2 emissions of 121.1g/km.

Finally, new light commercial (LCV) registrations are 5.3pc ahead this year.


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