February 10, 2017 / 1:58 PM / 10 months ago

Irish new car sales fall in January as Brexit bites

DUBLIN, Feb 10 (Reuters) - New car sales in Ireland fell year-on-year in January for the first time since 2013, as a surge in used-car imports from the United Kingdom pushed sales down 1.6 percent in what is usually the month people flock to buy cars with new registration plates.

Car sales last year returned to the level last seen in 2008, when Ireland was hit by a crippling financial crisis, but the sharp fall in the value of sterling against the euro following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last June has made the importing of used cars from the UK more attractive.

Just over 26,500 new cars were sold in January compared with more than 27,000 a year ago.

However close to 7,000 cars were imported and licenced for the first time in Ireland last month, almost double the amount a year ago, the central statistics office said on Friday.

New goods vehicles sales rose by more than 8 percent in a sign that the economy continues to grow strongly.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry forecast that new car sales will fall 3 percent this year compared with a jump of 18 percent in 2016 when Ireland’s economy probably grew faster than any other in the EU for the third successive year.

Economic growth of 3.5 percent is still forecast for 2017 despite the challenges Brexit poses to vulnerable parts of the economy such as the motor industry and exporting. Ireland’s Central Bank said last month that there had so far been a muted overall impact from their near neighbour’s impending EU exit. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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