I was lucky enough to be able to drive through part of the western coast of Ireland for five days in mid-August, and as is always the case when actually finding oneself in the actual country, I learnt details that don’t blatantly appear in the monthly sales charts – the objective of such explorations. During that quick week, we drove from Dublin to Galway, Clifden, Letterfrack, the Conemarra National Park, Westport then further south to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, then back to Dublin. All-in-all, we had perhaps 1.5 day of sun, the rest being drenched in typical Irish rain… Not to worry, the car parc was still there to be observed in detail.
Our vehicle for this Irish adventure was a rental Irish red Peugeot 208, with its odo indicating 22.435 miles at pickup – impossible for the life of me to return this to kilometres – and 23.137 at drop-off, or 702 miles / 1.130 km in five days. After Ivanhoe the Haval H8 and Joey the Toyota Hilux, our 208 was baptised Kaitlin, a name we tried to pick in accordance to our surroundings. Kaitlin was easy to drive – I had anticipated a bit of headache due to the right-hand drive manual nature of the car, but all went well. Nothing amazing, nothing horrendous, but the car distinctly lacked oomph when accelerating. A pushy experience all-in-all.
There were a lot of sales peculiarities I had been wanting to verify in Ireland, the main one being the sudden as much as implacable success of the Hyundai Tucson, #1 in the country in 2016 and so far in 2017. If in Dublin its domination was far from obvious, as soon as we hit the countryside it was a proper avalanche of Tucson that unfolded on the tiny roads and city streets. Seeing two or even three Tucsons parked next to each other was a frequent occurrence. However I noticed a lot of Tucsons with “Europcar” stickers on the back window, prompting me to wonder whether this smashing success has in fact a lot to do with rentals. Hyundai Ireland hasn’t responded to my inquiry on the matter. My estimation is around 1/3 of Tucsons I saw were rentals.
Another nameplate I could spot at every street corner in Ireland is the Nissan Qashqai. Although it never ranked #1 here in the annual sales charts – #3 in 2012, #2 in 2013, #2 in 2014 and #3 in 2015 – when travelling to this part of Ireland it does look like this is the car that has dominated the Irish sales charts for the past five years. The Ford Focus, #1 from 2001 to 2012 except in 2010, is certainly present but not to the extent its domination would have let us to believe. The VW Golf for example, #1 from 2013 to 2015, makes itself noticed a lot more but is still below the Qashqai.
Renault Kadjar in Roundstone, Ireland – August 2017
Renault Megane Sedan and 2 x Nissan Qashqai near the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland – August 2017
One vehicle I saw a lot more than I expected in Ireland is the Renault Kadjar, a lot more frequent than at home in France. It ranked #13 in 2016 and is #20 so far in 2017, so the only explanation I can find for this overwhelming presence is, here too, success with rental companies. Although the Renault brand has been popular for a long time in Ireland. There is a very strong heritage of Renault Fluence here, and its successor, the Renault Megane Sedan, has kick-started its career with a bang.
Which leads me to one very particular observation about the Irish car park: this country is still very fond of the sedans that are struggling to sell at all all over the rest of Western Europe: on top of the Megane Sedan – not even available in France, very popular sedans in Ireland include the Toyota Avensis (a very strong heritage of this nameplate), Corolla, Hyundai i40, Seat Toledo and VW Passat. Remaining on Hyundai for an instant, the all-new i30 is already well represented all around the area we traversed, adding to the success of the Tucson.
In terms of brands, the main striking observation is the success of Skoda, seemingly far more represented than its 6th place in 2017 would suggest. The Skoda Octavia (#5 so far in 2017) is everywhere, as is the Fabia, in Dublin a large number of taxis are the Skoda Superb and the Skoda Citigo is the most frequent of the three VW-Group minibars, more so than the VW Up or Seat Mii. Interestingly, I did not see many older Skodas, which would either indicate that this success is recent, or that the cars don’t survive long. The other brand that surprised me is Dacia. The facelifted Sandero ranked 11th in July and it shows: they are in every village, and the Duster is also very frequent.
Among recent launches, the Toyota C-HR is present, as well as the new Nissan Micra and, to a much lesser extent, the Peugeot 3008. The Suzuki Vitara and Kia Sorento also appeared surprisingly frequently.
Away on Inishmore, one of the three Aran Islands that you cannot reach by car, only locals are allowed their cars and the Aran car park is like a travel through time with older generations of Toyota Avensis, VW Passat, Opel Vectra and Skoda Octavia. Only a handful of cars sported the 2013 and beyond bi-annual license plate system.
I hope you enjoyed this quick insight into the Irish car park, please feel free to ask me anything in the comments section.