The latest Central Statistics Office figures show that new car sales fell by 25.6% in 2020 compared with the previous year due to the very low numbers of sales during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.
The CSO said that a total of 84,309 new private cars were licensed for the first time in 2020 compared to a total of 113,305 in 2019.
The number of used (imported) private cars licensed fell by 27.9% to 78,541 in 2020 compared with 108,895 in 2019.
The CSO said that overall a total of 162,850 new and used private cars were licensed in 2020 - the lowest figure since 2015.
Today's figures show that electric and hybrid cars continued to grow in popularity last year and these two categories accounted for 19.7% of new private cars licensed in 2020, compared with 12.7% in 2019.
The number of new hybrid and new electric cars licensed last year increased by 16.1% and 14.4% respectively, despite an overall drop in new cars licensed for the year.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,032 new private cars were licensed for the first time in December, a rise of 41.6% compared with December 2019.
The number of used (imported) private cars licensed increased by 11.5% compared with the same period in 2019, the CSO added.
Today's CSO figures show that Volkswagen was the most popular make of new private cars licensed in 2020, followed by Toyota, Hyundai, Skoda and Ford. Together these five makes represent 47.8% of all new private cars licensed.
The most popular model of private car licensed last year was the Toyota Corolla, followed by Volkswagen's Tiguan and Hyundai's Tucson.
The CSO said the most popular colour for new private cars licensed in 2020 was grey (37.3%) followed by black (17.8%) and white (15.2%). It noted this was the same order as in 2019.