The number of used cars being imported from the UK is growing rapidly this year, being driven by the increasingly good value offered on the Sterling-Euro exchange rate. That rate has increased to STG£0.89 to the €1 in the past few days, so there are even bigger bargains now to be found, without so much as a buyers' finger having to be lifted. According to The Irish Times, buyers can save as much as €9,000 on the top ten imported car so far this year.
The top ten choices
That top ten car imports runs from the Ford Focus to the VW Golf and Passat, Audi A4, Hyundai i30, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Opel Insignia (badged as a Vauxhall, natch), Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the Nissan Qashqai. Those, and others besides, have driven imports, all but a handful coming from the UK, to 54,496 cars (at the time of writing). That’s a record, and it’s almost half the volume of brand new cars being sold with Irish registrations in the same period.
That’s putting the squeeze on Irish dealers, who are now having to slash the prices of fresh stock to combat a slowing market for new cars (the new car market is down by just over nine per cent so far this year) and also cut the prices of used stock because canny buyers are coming in waving the prices of imported metal under their noses.
One senior car industry executive even confided to us that it’s not impossible to imagine used imports actually accounting for more registrations than new cars.
If that’s ever going to happen, it’s going to happen next year. Why in 2018? Because in 2019, the UK will in some form or other complete the Brexit process, which may well throw up some sort of tariff barrier between us and Britain, and because in 2017, UK dealers are taking a flamethrower to the prices of new cars, specifically new diesel cars.
That’s because the current bad press being endured by diesel is causing a collapse in the sale of oil-burners in the UK. Diesel sales have fallen by around seven per cent in total market share in the UK, and dropped by a whopping 20 per cent in May alone.
That has triggered a mass sell-off of new diesel stock by UK dealers, who in same cases are knocking as much as 25 per cent off the price tag in order to clear their forecourts in favour of petrol and hybrid models.
“Many car buyers are panicking about the costs that face diesel drivers, and are switching to petrol cars,” says Austin Collins, managing director of classified ads site BuyaCar.co.uk. “But this situation is an opportunity for drivers who are prepared to look beyond the scare stories. There’s no question that it’s a buyers’ market for diesel cars, with more than 25 per cent off some cars, which adds up to well over £5,000 in some cases, Despite the concerns over diesel, the latest models are much less of a risk because they comply with the latest emissions regulations, which means that they won’t face the same inner-city surcharges as older cars. And, as most buyers take out PCP finance, which guarantees the value of the car at the end of the agreement, there won’t be any unexpected bills if the value of diesel cars continues to drop.”
But if consumers are insulated from price falls by their PCPs, dealers aren’t and so this heavily discounted fleet of cars is going to start coming back as used stock in 12 month’s time, potentially unleashing another wave of cheap second hand stock for bargain-hungry Irish car buyers.
Will those buyers themselves be burned if the Irish Government introduces restrictions on diesel here? That’s a possibility, but buyers tend to buy on sticker price alone, and not think too hard about longer-term concerns. Equally, while there is clearly pressure on the Government to start disincentivising diesel in the 2018 budget, the indications right now are that it will not be a swingeing one-time policy, but the start of a longer-term one designed to reduce diesel’s price advantage at the pumps and in the motor tax rolls, and to offer further bonuses to those buying hybrid and electric cars.
The Irish outlook
Whatever happens when the Minister For Finance stands up in October, the fact is that diesel cars are still going to be relatively popular with Irish buyers for a while yet. Even with a fall-off in black-pump sales, diesel cars still account for more than two thirds of all new sales, and 79 per cent of imported cars.
“If you’re in the market for a bigger car, or cover high-mileages, then an efficient diesel makes sense. There are plenty of new and pre-registered cars that are in stock and ready for delivery, with enormous discounts” said BuyaCar’s Collins. “We don’t expect to see the death of diesel at any time in the near future.”
And with a further increase in imports likely, now more than ever is the time to make sure you’re getting the history of any potential purchase thoroughly checked out. The UK market is rife with write-offs and dodgy dealings, so ensure that any car you’re thinking of buying is checked by Motorcheck first.