Mr Ryan said the current legislation planned by Stephen Byers, which would enable dealers to buy cars outright at the same discount as major fleet customers, had created “genuine concern among small dealers that they are going to get pushed to one side”.
“Dealer size will become important; dealer scale will become important,” he said. “The pace of consolidation is going to increase at all levels in the industry. More people are going to be exiting from the market.”
Mr Ryan gave the broadest hint yet that GE Capital Woodchester is bidding to buy Chartered Trust, which was put up for sale at the beginning of June, but had yet to agree terms.
“GE is an aggressive company when it come to making acquisitions,” he said. “Chartered Trust is certainly of interest. The question is what price would we be willing to pay for those assets.
“We only buy a business if we can get it at the right price and it has to fit a strategic pattern. It is not just a question of getting bigger. There has to be a logic to it.”
Mr Ryan joined calls for an end to the present uncertainty over new car pricing but said the carmakers “only had themselves to blame”. He said price cuts “by stealth” were failing to convince the public that cars were actually cheaper.