AM Online

US disaster raises questions on twice-yearly plate change

"It has been a difficult couple of weeks for everyone, including most industries. The motor trade being no exception, the tragedy in America on the eleventh September is having a knock-on effect. Most dealers report that immediately after the eleventh showroom traffic was noticeably reduced. The rental industry is also having to take stock. With the downturn in commercial flights, both transatlantic and throughout Europe, then there is reduced demand for rental cars. This was felt immediately at all airport locations and bookings are believed to be down by around twenty per cent. This could cause rental companies to dispose of more cars in the short term and cancel new ones to reduce their fleets.

You cannot legislate for any disaster, but the question must be raised again about our twice yearly plate change in March and September. When things go wrong at this time of year there is no way out for the trade. But if registration dates were changed to January and July, there is more time to dispose of part exchanges from July through to the autumn. After such an enormous disaster it seems cruel to bring our industry into the equation, but lessons have to be learnt and action taken.

The exotic end of the market has taken a bit of a knock, with the number of used Ferraris around. Some dealer stocking levels are reaching the upper limit. Most of these cars are coming from business people who are unsure of the future and are offloading their expensive toys, just in case. It is a sign of the times when this end of the market, that has been so buoyant for so long, begins to wobble.

So now the good news. Most diesels are holding their own in the current market. Virtually anything from the VAG Group is making good money, the Audi A3, any A4, and the Estates are doing really well. The Skoda Octavia is in demand, but again it must be diesel. From BMW the 3 Series is doing well, particularly the coupes and convertibles, as are X5 3.0 petrol and diesel. But high mileage 5 Series are becoming hard work and in BMW dealer terms, anything over 55,000 miles is regarded as high."

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