Fleet News

Irish go on spending spree

May 2000: IRELAND'S new car market is still leaping ahead. The first quarter shows registrations up 44%, to 104,354 units.

Putting it in context, the Irish so far this year are buying more cars than their counterparts in traditionally bigger markets like Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. That's the strength of the Celtic tiger economy.

Estimates for the total 2000 market now run from 220,000 up to 260,000 and seasoned motor industry marketeers are admitting that getting it right these days is far from an exact science. Some facts, however, don't change too much.

Everybody is agreed, for instance, that the car hire sector will account for about 25,000 of those registrations, up 3,000 on last year.

Most of these cars will be showing off the sights and sounds of Ireland to tourists. The providers are all the big names in worldwide car hire, plus a handful of independents. One such independent is Argos, founded more than 40 years ago by Joe Turley, who says that getting cars is much more difficult now, because of the exceptional demand at retail level.

'There used to be all kinds of incentives. There's a lot less interest in supplying rental companies. I notice, for instance, that phone calls aren't returned,' he said.

The smaller importers, he asserts, are the worst, while bigger companies like Ford are still mindful of the importance of the customer.

Ford's business development manager David O'Driscoll admits that there has been a supply problem.

'Everybody has been tight on cars but I think there's still enough competitive edge in the market to avoid any sort of crisis,' he said.

Cyril McCabe, fleet sales manager of Fiat, makes the same point. He said: 'If we drop out of a deal, there's always another importer to fill the vacuum. But it's true, we as importers are trying to get better rates from the car hire people.'

Back to the phenomenal first quarter for new car sales. Nissan surprised competitors by becoming market leader with 12,144 registrations, 143 cars ahead of Ford. But the biggest success story is Daewoo, only 15 months on the Irish market and already enjoying a listing in the top 10 marques.

Perhaps it isn't a coincidence then that Nissan Ireland and Daewoo Ireland have a common identity. In both the majority equity is held by the A1 Babtain group of Kuwait and there's the same executive chairman, Gerard O'Toole.

  • Andrew Hamilton is motoring editor of Ireland's daily newspaper, The Irish Times.
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