What cars tell us about the UK and Ireland

Returning to the theme of a week ago, someone asked about sales of different brands of car in NI versus the rest of the UK. We can compare the Republic of Ireland with the UK.

Firstly, during the recession, sales have crashed completely in the Republic of Ireland, where they have fallen less steeply (though still markedly) in Northern Ireland and not comparatively significantly in Great Britain. Per capita, the number of new cars sold the UK currently outstrips the Republic of Ireland by a ratio of more than 3:2 – with per capita sales Northern Ireland comfortably higher than in the Republic but comfortably lower than the rest of the UK (in fact almost slap bang between them per capita).

In terms of brands, perhaps the most interesting thing to do is to look at the top ten selling brands proportionately in each country in 2012, and compare them directly across – the tables below show market share of new sales in 2012.

UK

UK

Brand Share v NI v IRL

1

Ford

13.8%

 12.6% (1st)  10.8% (3rd)

2

Vauxhall (GM)

11.4%

 11.9% (2nd)    6.4% (7th)

3

Volkswagen

9.0%

   9.2% (3rd)  12.7% (1st)

4

BMW

6.2%

   5.0% (7th)    4.3% (10th)

5

Audi

6.1%

   4.1% (10th)    4.6% (9th)

6

Nissan

5.2%

   6.3% (4th)    7.6% (4th)

7

Peugeot

4.9%

   6.0% (5th)    2.8% (12th)

8

Mercedes-Benz

4.5%

   2.8% (13th)    2.3% (13th)

9

Toyota

4.1%

   4.1% (9th)  12.6% (2nd)

10

Hyundai

3.6%

   5.8% (6th)    6.6% (6th)

Northern Ireland

NI

Brand Share v UK v IRL

1

Ford

12.6%

 13.8% (1st)  10.8% (3rd)

2

Vauxhall (GM)

11.9%

 11.4% (2nd)    6.4% (7th)

3

Volkswagen

9.2%

   9.0% (3rd)  12.7% (1st)

4

Nissan

6.3%

   5.2% (6th)    7.6% (4th)

5

Peugeot

6.0%

   4.9% (7th)    2.8% (12th)

6

Hyundai

5.8%

   3.6% (10th)    6.6% (6th)

7

BMW

5.0%

   6.2% (4th)    4.3% (10th)

8

Citroen

4.2%

   3.6% (11th)    1.5% (16th)

9

Toyota

4.1%

   4.1% (9th)  12.6% (2nd)

10

Audi

4.1%

   6.1% (5th)    4.6% (9th)

Ireland

IRL

Brand Share v NI v UK

1

Volkswagen

12.7%

   9.2% (3rd)    9.0% (3rd)

2

Toyota

12.6%

   4.1% (9th)    4.1% (9th)

3

Ford

10.8%

 12.6% (1st)  13.8% (1st)

4

Nissan

7.6%

   6.3% (4th)    5.2% (6th)

5

Renault

6.6%

   3.7% (12th)    2.0% (18th)

6

Hyundai

6.6%

   5.8% (6th)    3.6% (10th)

7

Opel (GM)

6.4%

 11.9% (2nd)  11.4% (2nd)

8

Skoda

6.4%

   2.6% (15th)    2.6% (14th)

9

Audi

4.6%

   4.1% (10th)    6.1% (5th)

10

BMW

4.3%

   5.0% (7th)    6.2% (4th)

The stand-out figures here seem to back up my contention in last week’s blog post that something peculiar is going on with the sales of the three main German premium brands in the UK (specifically in Great Britain). In the UK (actually in Great Britain), these collectively account for 16.8% of sales, a whopping one in six of all cars bought new; but in Northern Ireland this is one in eight and in the Republic it is barely one in nine (and even that out of fewer cars sold overall proportionately).

On the other hand, there has long been a proportional preference for Japanese cars in Ireland versus the UK – they make up 25.2% of new sales in Ireland versus 15.3% in the UK (and in fact only 14.6% in NI). This is now matched by Korean, which make up 10.5% of sales in Ireland versus 6.9% in the UK (here, interestingly, the trend in NI is more typically ‘Irish’, with 9.7%). That said, proportionate to population rather than car sales, these are almost equal in each country.

European brands such as Volkswagen and (particularly) Renault perform much better in Ireland than in the UK too – it is the ultimately American-owned Ford and Vauxhall, plus those German premium brands, which perform more poorly in Ireland. In fact, all premium brands (also Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus etc) are struggling in both jurisdictions in Ireland currently versus the UK – as noted last week, this need not necessarily be a bad thing in the long run for motoring enthusiasts in Ireland as the second-hand supply may prove to be more stable.

Renault has had a notably collapse across Europe (including in its home market) since 2007/8. It is staggering to think that, in 2005, it seemed set to take over from Ford as the market leader in the UK, and yet within a decade fewer than 2% of new cars sold in the UK are Renaults. This has been less marked in Northern Ireland (3.7%) than in the rest of the UK (though still highly noteworthy); but it has been more marked in Northern Ireland than in the Republic (6.6%).

What does all this mean? I have no idea! But a bit of conjecture can be quite fun…

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