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Retail buyers holding back

Motor retailers believe only real price cuts from volume carmakers will finally release pent-up demand and make September a sales success. Dealers say a clear statement from Ford or Vauxhall is needed to convince customers prices have finally fallen.

The present policy of offering cashbacks and price cuts on selected models is confusing customers, say dealers.The latest official registration figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal clear evidence of buyers continuing to delay new car purchases.

Car Price Check, an online tracking service by Autohit, reported 78% of buyers saying they were delaying their purchase because they expected a better deal.

The survey found 47% of people were prepared to wait three to six months.

Trevor Finn, Pendragon chief executive, said there was now a “clear divide” between carmakers which have cut list prices permanently and those offering short-term offers in the market.

“People who have got a transparent pricing strategy are doing well; people who haven't are not,” he said.

Michael Moore, Quicks chairman, said: “The order intake for September is encouraging following weaker than expected trading in July and August.”

Registrations for August were down by 4.3% to 71,228 and the year-to-date total is only marginally up – by 0.8% – despite a strong first half. The SMMT claimed the drop was to be expected as the market continues to adjust to a twice-yearly plate change.

But industry analysts believe many customers will wait beyond September to see if prices move further.

The SMMT revealed it was registrations in the small business sector which kept the market afloat. These were up by 35% for the month and the sector has grown by 31% year-to-date. In contrast, sales to private buyers have fallen by 5.7% this year while big fleet business is static.

The August market is now too small to have a significant effect on the year as a whole but analysts noted Rover saw its market share drop below 3%. They say the company needs to regain the confidence of the fleet and small business buyer if it is to recover.

Taking the year as a whole, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Fiat are emerging as the strongest performers. Toyota is rapidly gaining ground on Nissan which is struggling despite having launched new Primera and Almera ranges recently. The volume selling Micra is now looking dated and, like Ford's Fiesta, desperately needs replacing.

On the other hand, Vauxhall has kept Corsa sales alive despite the fact that the new model goes on sale in October. A Vauxhall spokesman said there had been “some good offers and good prices” available to dealers. * This is the last month in which carmakers and dealers will be able to create fake new car 'sales'. The Government order forcing open declaration of preregistered cars, came into force on September 1. Figures will have to be declared monthly in arrears.

{*MD(1)*} {*Y2DSept*}

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