AM Online

Crackdown starts on pre-reg 'sales'

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders will next week publish the first official figures for pre-registered cars, relating to September. New Government legislation forces carmakers to reveal how many unsold vehicles they have been pushing onto forecourts to inflate market share. Early indications are the numbers will be small.

Manufacturers are anxious to avoid embarrassment and have plenty of excuses for not hitting sales targets last month. One volume carmaker which previously pushed numbers heavily will declare 24 cars.

The SMMT is playing down the effect of the legislation. Spokesman Al Clarke said: "I can't see the numbers being that big. There will be fluctuations over the year with some peaks during new car launch activity, but the overall effect will be small."

He dismissed allegations that some carmakers were finding a way round the system by creating a fake buying company as being "pointless" and only likely to anger the Government. Annual fake registrations probably totalled around 200,000 cars, or 10% of the UK market last year. The Finance & Leasing Association has revealed the industry spent £1.4bn financing 'demonstrator' cars in the 12 months to June this year.

Some carmakers still dispute Government motives in forcing the issue into the open. A senior director of one volume carmaker told Automotive Management he could not see the purpose in it.

Only carmakers - 'suppliers' in Government parlance - are being forced to make the declaration. There is no requirement for dealers to declare their figures and any car kept for more than three months is outside the system. How this will affect figures retrospectively has not been determined.

No formal system for keeping records has been established. The V55 first registration form still has three tick boxes - private, fleet and small business user. So the SMMT is asking its members to supply figures on an informal basis. "It will be easier for some members than for others," said Mr Clarke. "There will have to be a rolling check on each vehicle through the three-month period."

To avoid breaking the law some carmakers have asked dealers to sign undertakings not to preregister. But the practice will still take place.

Dealers under pressure to meet volume targets will add extra demonstrators or selling to company owned daily rental businesses. There is still a market for nearly-new cars on the dealer forecourt.

New car registration figures for September showed falling market shares for Nissan, Renault and Mazda - three companies which have been accused in the past of distorting the system. But only a longer term look over the next three months will establish whether the Government has truly achieved its aim.

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