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Used market confidence down, sales up 13%, says Cap

Confidence in the used car trade has taken its seasonal downslide.

Dealers confidence in the profitability of the market has been high since December, but now the Cap Used Car Confidence Index for September shows a confidence factor of –18, meaning that more dealers believe the used car market will decline than improve.

Last year dealers were positive up until this month in the year when the first negative figure of –9 was reported. Confidence was then low for the following two months.

For the second month running Yorkshire dealers are most negative about the future of the used car market. Dealers in Scotland and the SE & London were mostly reporting that they believe the market will remain stable.

Despite the lack of confidence in the market used car sales are up 13.7% on September last year. One reason for the large increase could be the release of pent up demand from this time last year, when consumers were holding off from buying due to the car market pricing debate. Used sales in September 2000 were down 2.4% on September 1999.

Out of the nine regions surveyed, eight were up this month compared to just three last September. The only region to be down on last year's September sales was Anglia (down by 5.8%). The top-performing region this month was Scotland, up on used sales by 29.6%, followed closely by Yorkshire, up 28.8%. The North East and SW & Wales were up by 19.2% and the Midlands by 14.3% - both also above the UK average of 13.7%. Still up on September 2000 sales were the SE & London (13.6%), the North West (12.5%) and Northern Ireland (11.5%) although these were all below the UK average.

Due to an excellent month in used car sales the UK average for year-to-date sales this month has increased to 8.3% above this time last year.

Four regions were above the UK average. These were the North West (15.6%), Yorkshire (13.8%), Northern Ireland (12.2%) and the North East (11.0%). The remaining regions were below the sector average. Scotland is the region with the least improvement on last year.

This month the performance of used cars is generally at an 'acceptable' level, with the majority of responses spread across the middle three categories.

Analysing each sector, in September the small family car outperformed all sectors in the used market with an average rating between the 'acceptable' and 'good'. MPVs are also performing well this month. In traditional style, executives are performing the worst on the used car forecourt with an average rating between the 'disappointing' and 'acceptable' categories.

Just over half (57.1%) of 4x4s were said to be retailing between 'disappointing' and 'poor' – a bad result for this sector when dealers usually expect sales in this sector to start picking up.

In the majority of regions, this month, superminis and small family cars were retailing well. MPVs were fairly strong in SE & London. Executives were particularly poor in the North East, North West and Scotland.

This month the percentage of vehicles sold with a part-exchange has recorded an all time low for the index, of 37%.

This month only a quarter of sales were sold with dealer finance, with the majority of sales being financed from other sources. This month's figure was the lowest it has been since November 2000.

The registration letter most dealers reported as making a car look dated was an 'N' plate – 38.1%. The oldest reported was a 'K' registration, while 19.0% said that an 'S' registered car now looks dated.

The average mileage that dealers would consider a used car as unsaleable was 82,000 miles. The highest mileage reported was 160,000 and the least was 60,000.

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