New figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry show that new car registrations for February were up 5.3% to 13,834 compared to the same time last year. 

The SIMI figures show that registrations year to date are down 11% on the same time last year.

Today's figures show that used car imports for February 2021 were down 7% on the same time last year. Year to date imports are down 1.84% on 2020, SIMI noted. 

Meanwhile, light commercials vehicles are up 51.3% compared to February last year and are up 6.4% so far this year. 

HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) registrations are down 15.8% in comparison to February 2020l while HGV salesare down 9.5% so far this year.

SIMI also said that new electric car registrations increased for the month of February with 813 registered compared to 390 on the same month last year. 

So far this year, a total of 1,791 new electric cars were registered compared to 1,281 on the same time last year - an increase of almost 40%. Both Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid continue to increase their market share.

Brian Cooke, SIMI Director General, said that while new car sales were slightly up when compared to February last year, they are down 11% year to date and down 18% on 2019.

Mr Cooke said that strong pre-orders at the end of last year along with the ability to offer a click and deliver service have helped the industry, as has the reduced VAT rate during the first two months of the year, which has brought some March sales forward. 

He said that looking ahead to March, with most year-end pre-orders having been fulfilled, the increased VAT rate and with the absence of car hire, it is anticipated that the month ahead will be a challenging one for the Industry. 

"From a health and safety perspective, the industry has proven during the duration of the pandemic that showrooms can operate in a safe environment for their employees and customers," Brian Cooke said. 

"The large size of dealerships, the low average footfall, the ability to do business on a strict appointment only basis and the option of displaying cars outside lends itself to social distancing and safe retailing," he said. 

He said that car sales are very low risk, but offer a high return to the State in terms of employment and revenue. 

"In this context SIMI members are ready to open showrooms for business safely, but if this is not possible a move to click and collect would help the sector in the interim," he added.

Today's SIMI figures show that the five top selling car brands in February were Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Skoda and Ford.

The top five car models in the year to February were the Hyundai Tucson, the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota Rav4, the Toyota Yaris and the Ford Focus.