As new car sales continue to fall (latest figures show that we're now 13% behind last year) the Irish Motor Industry now finds itself facing threats of the superstitious kind. First raised by Motorcheck six months ago as a potential threat the industry was notably quiet on the topic.
A poll posted on a private LinkedIn group for the Irish Motor Industry titled "Would you be put off buying a new / used car with a 13 registration plate?" received 39 responses with only 10 indicating that it might influence their decision. However a poor performance for the industry has left key decision makers very aware of the impact low consumer confidence can have.
Unlucky for Some?
The notion that a buyer might be put off buying a new car because it bears the number 13 on the number plate was initially scoffed at but things have changed. It's not so much a fear of the 'Unlucky 13' that has new car dealers worried but Fear of the Fear, if you know what I mean?
Allow me to explain - It's generally accepted that most people wouldn't have a problem buying and driving a car with 13 on the number plate (if they can afford to do so). But if you were buying said car and the thought entered your head that three years down the line you might be trying to sell it to someone who did have superstitious worries and thus renege on a purchase - would this give you cause to think and maybe defer your purchase? This is precisely what is worrying the industry today. Any issue causing a potential buyer to rethink a new car purchase (no matter how silly) could cause sales to fall even further.
And we're not alone. A recent report from the Vehicle Remarketing Association in the UK says that the DVLA is introducing a change to its system that will facilitate buyers fearing the unlucky 13. The DVLA is proposing motorists who buy a new car registered from 1 March 2013 to 31 August 2013 can choose to have it registered as a 62-plate, effectively keeping it the same as vehicles registered from 1 September 2012 to 28 February 2013, until it naturally reverts back to the regular plate pattern which will see the 63 registration appear on 1 September 2013.
Changes to Registration System
In an effort to defend the industry against the superstition industry lobby group SIMI have suggested a number of changes which are currently under consideration. But don't uncross your fingers yet - from what we understand the changes that have been suggested are aimed more at spreading the sale of new cars over the year with a second reg plate as opposed to ridding ourselves of the unlucky prefix.
For example a car registered in Dublin in 2013 would be 131D*** for a January - June registration and 132D*** for a July - December registration.
This does actually make sense as it would encourage buyers thinking about buying a new car in the second half of the year to buy then and there rather than holding off for the next year's plate. This would help the industry greatly and have a positive knock-on on effect for NCT tests, etc.
It would also disguise the dreaded '13' in a three digit number which to be fair has worked up till now. An examination of the Motorcheck database tells us that there are 260,000 vehicles registered in Ireland that have the digits '13' on their number plate.
The greatest of which is the Toyota Corolla with 10,144. Does this make it Ireland's unluckiest car? I don't think so.
Top 5 Cars Registered in Ireland with '13' in the Number Plate