Irish electric car purchases dip again, as diesel sales rise

Global car makers increase investment in hybrid technologies as consumers grow ever more weary of EVs

Sales of electric cars dipped in the first four months of 2024, new data shows, as the number of new diesel cars licensed rose to 24 per cent.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed 13 per cent of all new cars licensed until the end of April were electric, down from 17 per cent in the same period of 2023.

A total of 8,224 new electric cars were licensed for the first time over the four month period, compared with 9,828 in 2023. However, the figures are still ahead of 2022, when only 6,748 electric vehicles were licensed.

Plug-in hybrids were also increasingly popular, with their number up 10 per cent from 4,752 to 5,245 in the first four months of 2024.

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A total of 20,273 new cars were licensed during the period, up 27 per cent compared with 2023.

The figures showed the number of new cars licensed in April rose 10 per cent year-on-year, with Skoda the most popular brand, followed by Toyota and Volkswagen.

“Today’s figures from the CSO show the continued growth in the number of electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles licensed in Ireland,” said Damien Linehan, statistician in the CSO’s transport section.

“New petrol and electric cars were the most popular vehicles licensed in the first four months of 2024, accounting for one-fifth (21 per cent) of all new cars licensed. In terms of car numbers, the number of petrol and electric vehicles licensed rose from 8,367 in the first four months of 2023 to 13,270 in the first four months of 2024. At the same time, new diesel cars licensed have increased by 17 per cent in the same period and account for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all new private cars licensed.”

The number of used imported diesel private cars was down 6 per cent. The total number of used vehicles licensed in the first four months of 2024 was up 21 per cent compared with 2023.

The data comes as global carmakers are stepping up investment in hybrid technologies – a growing consumers wariness over fully electric vehicles (EVs) has forced the industry to rapidly shift gear, according to top executives.

A combination of still high interest rates and concern over inadequate charging infrastructure has chilled buyers’ enthusiasm for fully electric cars, prompting a rebound in sales of hybrid vehicles that most of the industry had long regarded as nothing more than a stopgap.

Tapping the resurgent demand for hybrids was a priority, executives from General Motors, Nissan, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Ford told the Financial Times’ Future of the Car Summit this week.

Sales of new electric cars are down 14.2 per cent in the first three months of 2024 compared with last year, despite the overall new car market growing by 8 per cent.

“We have to invest heavily in the future of plug-in hybrids,” said Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors. “We have to be agile. We have a global tool chest of technical things that we can deploy fairly rapidly.”

The view was echoed by José Muñoz, global president of Hyundai, which is now considering manufacturing hybrids at its new $7.6 billion (€7 billion) plant in Georgia given more drivers are baulking over buying fully electric vehicles.

“If you asked me six months ago, definitely a year ago, I would have told you...fully electric,” said Mr Muñoz. “A lot of things have happened between then and now. Electric is still the future. But now we are seeing a longer transition.”

Electric car sales growth slowed in the US and Europe last year, prompting carmakers to offer discounts. Industry executives have already acknowledged that the market has lost some momentum as future sales growth increasingly depends on demand from mainstream buyers rather than early adopters. – additional reporting Financial Times

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