MOTOR INDUSTRY'S ROAD TO RECOVERY

FROM PREVIOUS PAGE The trend has picked up since the big freeze in the early weeks of January lifted, he is happy to report.

In his case, as the man responsible for the BMW brand, the rise has nothing to do with the Government's scrappage scheme: 'For people spending €30,000 to €40,000 on a new car, the €1,500 scrappage does not make the difference.' The same logic applies to most Mercedes customers.

However, the State's generosity affects potential purchasers in the Fiat, Mitsubishi and even Mini ranges, also available in Quarrypark. Bear in mind that the price of a Fiat Panda barely reaches five figures, while Tommy Davitt would be more than happy to take €120,000 or so from anyone needing a seven series BMW X5.

'So far the mood is good,' he says. 'Hopefully it will continue because there are people about wanting to buy cars. It is all a lot more positive.'

There is 'a marked improvement' at Boland's of Wexford so far this year, according to Enda Newport. 'New car sales are on the rise and there is a buoyancy in the used car market too,' said Enda, no doubt glad to see the back of the annus horribilis that 2009 represented for the motor industry.

Enda said the Government's scrappage scheme has helped to reinvigorate car sales, but that it's not the only reason. The man from Boland's has detected a shift in attitude out there, though he's not quite ready to call it confidence.

'People who didn't want to change their car in the last 12 or 18 months are coming back out again now. The attitude that was out there seems to have changed a bit,' said Enda.

While some people have decided to cast off the cautious shackles of the recession and once again visit the showrooms of Wexford, Enda said there is also less of a stigma attached to a new car in 2010 than there seemed to be in 2009.

All these factors have led to Boland's becoming a busier spot so far this year. 'People are willing to buy this year where they weren't last year,' said Enda, neatly summing up the change in fortune.

However, he's not getting carried away with it by any means and the challenges for the industry remain serious. 'We're never happy, but we're happier,' noted Enda, who pointed out that a lift in car sales has a positive knock-on effect for associated businesses.

Sales manager Austin Codd reports that new car sales at the Enniscorthy Motor Company are up by at least 20 per cent so far this term. The pick-up comes as a relief after the horrors of 2009 when the number of staff on the payroll at the firm dwindled from 40 down to the early twenties, with casualties in all departments.

The former Wexford hurler asserts that the scrappage scheme has been a boon as customers in mid recession are very sensitive to price. He makes a virtue of the fact that most of the Seats he sells are in the lower tax bands at €104, or €156 per annum - even the big 2-litre Exeo which has replaced the Toledo. Reduced CO2 emissions are in vogue.

The impetus behind this quiet green revolution is the switch to economical diesel. Petrol engines now account for just 35 per cent of the new cars setting out from the Motor Company compound on the Old Dublin Road.

The petrol loyalists are mainly in the low consumption mini class. Meanwhile, Austin and his staff continue to drum up business at the larger vehicle end of the market only with the help of massive price cuts. He reports that the cost of a Seat people carrier has been slashed by € 7,000, for instance, down 18 per cent from the price at the height of the boom.

The shift to diesel, by the way, is also reflected in the turnover of second hand cars, according to Austin Codd. The result is that the real bargains are to be had in used petrol engine vehicles, which have simply gone out of fashion.

'Last year was chronic. You could not sustain it,' he says, summing up. While the peak attained in 2007 may never be scaled again, he is cautiously optimistic that the period of carnage in the motor salesrooms has been staunched.

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