Cullen (pictured), the former owner of the Renault franchise in Ireland, didn’t mince his words regarding the Greens during his recent visit to Waterford.
“It’s very hard to make things better when [the Greens] collapsed an entire industry,” he told The Munster Express.
“The Greens have collapsed our industry by reducing the VRT on cars that had low emissions when they didn’t have to.
“The European Union had already put directives in place that manufactures had to have the CO2 below 160 by 2010 and the manufacturers did that. And having done that and avoiding a penalty by doing so, our guys then came along and reduced the VRT price.”
The ‘Apprentice’ star, who still owns six Renault dealerships in Ireland as part of the Bill Cullen Motor Group, provided an example of the market’s decline citing one marque.
“BMWs came down 10 grand. Now you didn’t gain from that if you a BMW because your second hand went down 12 or 15 [grand]. So you’re paying more money to swap because yours is petrol and the new ones are diesel. And that’s the way it’s happened and no-one in power seems to have noticed.”
At a time when holes in the Government coffers are more numerous than stereotypical potholes in Cavan, Bill Cullen repeated his criticism of John Gormley’s party, claims he first made on ‘The Late Late Show’.
“The Government are probably losing €500 to €750 million a year [in] VRT and getting nothing for it,” he added. “And that’s led to the hole in the Budget which means the girls couldn’t get their cervical injections.
“That €7 million and a whole lot more would have been available if that measure hadn’t been brought in by the Greens, but that money and a whole lot more isn’t there now.”
Following his ‘Late Late’ claims on May 8th, Green Party Chairman and European election candidate Dan Boyle issued a rebuttal, stating that Mr Cullen’s claims were “hysterical and widely inaccurate”.
Mr Cullen continued: “The motor industry is down 70 per cent; finance companies are not providing finance really for cars, you have to have 50 to 60 per cent of a deposit whereas you used to get 100 per cent so that’s all stopping the industry.
“Seventy per cent is an unsustainable drop in our business and you’ll see lots more motor traders closing up while the ones that survive will do okay.”
So where are the bargains to be got then, Bill?
“You can buy any car today and get great value,” he asserted, days after his group had sold 104 cars in a weekend, more than they’d sold in the previous 10 weeks combined.
“As soon as the new ones are out of the country and that won’t be long, then you’ll be back to normal prices again. In the next six months, buy your new car if you want to buy one, but people don’t want an ’09 car on their driveway while people are all around them are being made redundant, so we have that syndrome as well.
“There’s not much the Government can do: put a scrappage scheme in – it’ll stimulate something and I’m hoping they’ll do that in January. But that’s not going to prevent the dealers with cash flow difficulties now from closing. I mean if you own your own dealership you can actually close, pay your own rates on it and that’s cheaper than having a business losing two or three hundred grand.”
While there’s a growing clamour in the media and, unsurprisingly from opposition benches for a general election, Bill Cullen believes this “may not be the answer”.
He explained: “We need new ideas, but changing the Government? Is that going to do it for us? I’d love to see a national government with the best of all the parties joining together. That’s what we need.
“Whereas if Fine Gael come in and they have to bring Labour and Sinn Féin with them, then we’ll have another coalition where they’ll all be fighting from their own little corners again.
“And most of the new people will also have to learn the ropes of governing but the current guys have learned all that, so it’s a very difficult one to call.”
But he concluded his comments on a definitive note: “I do say this and without any hesitation: the leading team we have today is not the team that should be leading us tomorrow, and that’s all I’ll say.”