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Twin plate change leads to trade disillusionment

Although the market is depressed there is a real shortage of the kind of two-to-five year-old cars that have historically come in the form of part-exchanges.

It is quite apparent in the auction halls as well as when you talk to dealers. This is simply because the larger dealer groups are not doing the retail business to bring in these kind of swappers. The trade seems to be in some confusion at the moment and it is now clear that 1999 - the first year of the twin plate system - failed to establish any kind of template by which to work this year.

The dealer networks and the trade have still not quite got their heads around the fact that June, July and August are particularly quiet now after years of being the busiest time of year.

Instead there is now a kind of business void leaving many feeling increasingly disillusioned - despite the fact that this was all predicted as soon as the new system was announced two years ago. On this analysis, September should bring some respite with the introduction of a new letter. But although it is still early it does seem that there is little retail interest in the X-plate.

Sitting down with the corporate sales guys I get the message that some businesses with fleets of between 10 and 50 cars are unwilling to make a purchase decision until the new car pricing issue is settled. These are the people who do not currently get the massive volume discounts enjoyed by their larger counterparts and for whom any decision involves their own money.

The outlook seems to be, therefore, that demand will remain no better than steady but that there will be a further influx of late-plate cars in August due to de-fleeting - coming at a particularly unwelcome time.

The big concern has to be that if these are not carefully fed back into the market then we could see further weakening of late-plate values.

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