The number of new cars registered in April was substantially higher year-on-year, according to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, but was lower than the same month of 2019.

More than 7,160 new cars were registered last month, up 1,989% compared to the 343 registered in April 2020.

That was in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, when heavy restrictions saw most economic activity grind to a halt.

When compared to April 2019, last month's sales were down 19.5%.

The April figures bring to 55,207 the amount of cars sold so far this year, just over 10.1% higher than in the same period of 2020.

But when compared to the first four months of 2019, vehicle sales are 17,823 (24.4%) lower.

"The phased re-opening of showrooms announced by Government last week has been welcomed by the industry, and retailers are cautiously optimistic about car sales, both new and used, in the weeks and months ahead," said SIMI director general Brian Cooke. "It is hoped that pent up demand allied with the increase in personal savings will see customers returning to showrooms."

The SIMI stats show that, in the first four months of 2021, Toyota was the most popular brand, representing 12.8% of sales. That compares to a 12.5% share of the market in the same period of 2020.

However it is Hyundai's Tucson that is the most popular model of car so far this year, with the 2,948 units registered representing 5.3% of the market.

Electric and hybrid cars have also continued to grow in popularity in 2021.

During the first four months of the year electric car sales doubled year-on-year to 3,414, with the engine-type making up almost 6.2% of all sales.

Sales of petrol-electric hybrids rose 47.4% to 9,200, representing 16.7% of the market, while sales of petrol plug-in hybrids more than tripled to 3,285, making up almost 6% of the market so far this year.

As a result, diesel and petrol sales fell by 6.7% and 7.7% respectively.

Diesel cars made up almost 36.9% of sales in the first four months of the year, compared to a 44% share in the same period of 2020, and a 47.5% share in the first four months of 2019.

Petrol cars, meanwhile, have made up less than a third of sales in the first four months of 2021, having had a 37.8% share in the same period of last year and a 40.8% share of the market between January and April of 2019.

According to SIMI imports of used cars were also substantially higher year-on-year in April, but down when compared to 2019.

It said that 5,676 used cars were imported last month, a 2,738% increase compared to the 200 imports recorded in April 2020. But when compared to the April 2019 figures, imports in the month were down 36.1%.

Year-to-date, it said imports are up 36.4% on 2020 but 32.5% lower compared to the same period of 2019.