New figures published today show that total new car registrations fell by 5.6% to 16,738 in March compared to the same time last year.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) figures show that new car registrations for the year to date are down 10.7% to 64,098 compared to 71,760 on the same time last year.

SIMI's figures also show that new Commercial Vehicle registrations shows a similar picture, with new Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) registrations down 2.2% to 3,067 in March. In the year to date they are are down 10.7% to 11,182. 

New Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HGV) also saw a slight decline of 1.5% compared to the same time last year, and so far this year they are down 3.3% to 886.

However, used or imported cars increased by 9.98% to 8,970 last month compared to a figure of 8,156 in March 2018.

So far this year, used car sales are up 2.74% to 26,832 from 26,117 the same time last year.

SIMI also said that new electric vehicle registrations continue to grow with a total of 1,437 EV cars registered so far this year. It said this has surpassed the total number of EVs registered for the whole of 2018 at 1,233.

Brian Cooke, SIMI's Director General designate, said that new car sales are being dampened by Brexit uncertainty.

But he also said the increase in VRT on new cars for 2019, arising from the fact that no allowance was made for the first step in the move to the new WLTP emissions testing regime, has also had a negative impact. 

Ireland is the only country in the EU that has sought to charge consumers higher registration taxes due to the improved emissions testing regime. 

"While the VRT increases in this first phase of the transition to the WLTP test figures only saw an average increase of 5% in the CO2 values, the second phase next year will see these increasing by a further 21%," Mr Cooke said.

He said that all other Member States have followed the EU Commission view that consumers should not be faced with increased taxation due to the improved emissions testing regime. 

"SIMI had warned that not adjusting for such large increases in CO2 values will burden the consumer, damage new car sales and will actually reduce State revenues," Mr Cooke said. 

"This has been the case as the decrease in new cars sales in Q1 has meant that the State's tax revenues from new cars have fallen by more than €60m so far this year, and this shortfall is only going to increase as the year progresses," he added.

Today's SIMI figures show that Volkswagen was the top selling car brands so far this year, followed by Hyundai, Toyota, Ford and Skoda. 

The top selling car in March was the Toyota Corolla.