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Chartered Trust comment

Are you ready for March 1 yet? It may be an uncomfortable thought but one of the busiest periods of the year is almost upon us. If you haven't got a game plan in place it is almost, but not quite, too late.

So, what are you going to do?

Motor retailers know their local market Ð that has always been the case. But it is important to be aware of the wider picture too. You need to know what deals are being offered on a national basis and to recognise when the competition makes a move. Only then can you know how to react and stay ahead.

That's why we at Chartered Trust and Lloyds UDT believe these Finance Analysis pages provide vital business information to help you do your job better. The data tables and accompanying articles provide a clear picture of the current finance promotions of carmakers, banks, building societies and other direct lenders. They also provide a guide to the medium term strategy for the future.

The early indications are this is going to be a bumper first quarter. Sales in January were up and reports from the forecourts suggest February has been busy too. Auction houses say prices are rising, which is a sure sign of the trade restocking and getting the right product in place to satisfy demand.

It can be no surprise then that everybody wants a slice of the action. Even Marks & Spencer, struggling through its own retail revolution, has taken time out to launch a car purchase plan Ð based on the PCP model - and cut its personal loan rates to the bone.

The latest figures from the Finance & Leasing Association reveal motor retailers did around 10% less point-of-sale finance business last year in a rising market. The association blames the fall almost entirely on the growth of direct personal loans.

So, once again, what are you going to do about it?

Don't panic, help is at hand. In the first place, there is still plenty of evidence customers are ready to organise finance at the point of sale.

It makes sense to do the transaction in one place and walk (or better still, drive) away from the dealership knowing you have a shiny, new car.

It makes sense to use your part exchange as an integral part of the finance transaction and not have to value it separately - or sell it privately.

The bottom line is: arranging point-of-sale finance is quick and easy, using high-tech systems such as E-quips.

The customer knows finance has been approved; knows the money is 'in the bank'; and knows the rate they will be paying. Direct lenders, despite their advertising, cannot offer all these services in the space of a few minutes.

Secondly, your Chartered Trust and Lloyds UDT finance advisors remain as committed to point-of-sale finance as you are. They know and understand the market you are operating in and will take a flexible approach to providing finance plans to suit your business and your customers.

The next few weeks are going to be hectic. Take time now to pause, think about your strategy, and then pick up the phone if you feel you want advice.

After a difficult 12 months, everybody in the industry will welcome an upturn in sales. But those who gain most will be those who make the best use of it.

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