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Order returns to a confident market

There are many conflicting reports around the trade of how new car sales have stacked up for September. If some manufacturers are to be believed then sales are on track and everything is rosy.

The reality is that many dealers have been struggling to meet target. The problem has been what can only be described as over-optimistic targets, bearing in mind the state of public apathy towards the current plate system.

Whatever does pan out, it is already clear many dealers are short of retailable used stock to fill their forecourts and the lack of new sales is exacerbating the problem. However, looking for the silver lining, a positive factor emerging is that confidence is good for the time of year and values are remaining relatively steady - much to the surprise of some in the trade.

Auction activity remains buoyant, with percentage conversion rates up in the 80s. Three-year-old stock is looking desirable and that has helped many cars that were hanging around. This is aided by vendors preparing their cars before sale. The auction is an ideal place to put prime retail stock in front of an audience of buyers who are willing to pay good money.

The nearly-new late-plate market, traditionally consisting of ex-rental and VMs' company car stock, is also less volatile. Although some companies are disposing of 02 plate cars, it's fairly orderly.

Vauxhall Vectra is tremendous value and demand has picked up, with some traders buying considerable numbers to take them through to the end of the year. Ford Focus face-lift model LX with alloys are appearing in the market and buyers are being found for them.

If this orderly marketing continues, with nobody panicking and dumping large numbers of cars - coupled with some easing of international tensions - the supply and demand balance should change dramatically.

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