Cheap imports of UK cars beat buzzer on emissions tax

MORE than 100,000 used UK cars were licensed in Ireland last year, a record high reflecting the Brexit-battered pound and the arrival of a new emissions tax here.

Imports from the UK rose by 9.5pc to 108,895, while sales of new cars in Ireland fell by 6.5pc to 113,305 – close to parity in a market where most German-made motors being registered here are UK imports.

Imports surged as the euro neared the pound in value, reaching 94 pence in August.

The euro has eased to 85 pence since Britain’s acceptance of a transitional Brexit deal – but that is still more than 10pc stronger than before the Brexit vote.

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CSO figures also showed that Ireland faced a December deluge of used imported cars, many of them older diesels.

These were registered here just in time to avoid paying a new emissions tax that came into effect on January 1.

While only 729 new cars were registered nationwide last month, 7,995 UK imports arrived to beat the buzzer on Ireland’s new tax on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

This charge, calculated at time of registration, can add more than €1,500 to the cost of importing an older diesel-powered car starting this month.

The CSO found that as recently as 2015, barely one in four cars registered here was a UK import, compared to nearly one in two in 2019.

Combined, the number of cars added to Ireland’s roads last year reached a 12-year high. Nearly two of every five cars were registered in Co Dublin.

The Government’s stated goal of phasing out sales of new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030 made only modest progress in 2019.

Of the 113,305 new cars sold, only 3,443 – 3pc – were fully electric. That is still triple the levels recorded in 2018. And the top-selling car in December was Tesla’s entry-level Model 3, with 81 units sold.

The number of new diesel- powered cars sold declined by 19pc to 53,201 – but it is still the most popular engine type.

Close to 80pc of UK imports were diesels, while only 611 -barely 0.5pc of vehicle imports – were electrics.

The CSO said Volkswagen (13,180) was the most popular brand among new car registrations in 2019, followed by Toyota (11,408), Hyundai (10,281), Ford (9,047) and Skoda (8,791).

Volkswagen also topped the UK imports table, with 12,899 used vehicles registered here last year, followed by Ford (12,157), Audi (10,495), BMW (8,290) and Hyundai (8,181).

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