New figures show that electric vehicle registrations increased significantly in January, with a total of 811 cars sold - a massive increase of 680% on January 2018.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry said the January figure is more than for the whole of 2017 and is over 60% of the total for the whole of last year. 

SIMI said that while electric vehicle numbers are still relatively low, they are showing strong growth and have increased from less than 1% of the market last year to 2.6% market share in January of this year.

Diesel continues to be the market leader so far in 2019, with a 49% share despite an 8% decline on the previous January. 

Petrol cars have grown to 40% and hybrids currently account for 7% of the new car market.

Today's SIMI figures also show that car sales figures for January are down 12.6% when compared to January 2018, slowing to 32,374 from 37,023.

Sales of light commercial vehicles also slowed by 16.3% last month while heavy goods vehicle registrations fell by 11.4% compared to January 2018. 

SIMI said that sterling weakness and Brexit related uncertainty were the key drivers in 2018 and have continued to be a characteristic of this year. 

It noted that used car imports in 2018 reached the highest level on record at 100,755 - accounting for 44.5% of the total car market in 2018. 

SIMI said that used car imports for January saw a very slight decrease of 0.6% on the same time last year. 

Brian Cooke, Director General Designate of SIMI, said the new vehicle registrations in January are clearly disappointing but not surprising. 

"With Brexit fast approaching adding to business uncertainty, the weakness of sterling is continuing to drive down used car values which is increasing the cost to change," Mr Cooke said. 

"While the industry is ramping up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, in the context of the potential impact on a sector whose activity will be in the region of €5 billion between now and the end of the year, it is crucial that the State fully clarifies the trading conditions in the event of no-agreement being reached," he said. 

Today's SIMI figures also show that the top five car brands in January were Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota and Nissan. 

The five top selling car models last month were the Hyundai Tucson, the Nissan Qashqai, the Ford Focus, the Toyota Yaris and the Skoda Octavia.