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CAP trade watch: Index reveals who likes automatics

We have previously written about the CAP Used Car Performance Index – a monthly national survey of used car dealers in the franchise and non-franchise sectors.

Primarily, the survey is designed to feed into the monthly Black Book research process. By measuring trends in retail demand we are able to better understand the underlying driver of our market – the behaviour of retail customers.

In the latest Used Car Performance Index we assessed the demand for automatics and compared this with the stocking policies of each participant.

The findings are interesting in revealing some significant regional variations. Taken nationally, the percentage of customer enquiries for automatics stands at around 13 per cent. It should be noted that we specifically assessed enquiries rather than sales. When regional variations are factored out, the proportion of automatics stocked by dealers matches almost exactly.

Regionally we might expect demand – and therefore stocking proportions – to vary according to a range of factors. These include population age – on the assumption that older drivers tend to prefer automatics – along with population density. In other words, city dwellers prefer the convenience of automatic transmission in traffic.

High proportions of motorists with disabilities are another key factor driving this market. This initial survey appears to bear out these assumptions. For example, the major conurbations of London and the South East, the North West, West Midlands and Yorkshire & Humberside could be expected to be centres for high automatic demand and this is borne out by the survey findings.

Scotland and Wales feature prominently and, certainly in the case of Scotland, a high proportion of disabled drivers may account for this. The east of England is known to have a high age profile and here too automatics form a higher-than-average proportion of stock.

With a limited sample size, anomalies are bound to emerge and this is likely to account for the discrepancy between recorded demand and the high proportion of automatics on the forecourt. In reality, dealers are unlikely to over-anticipate demand for a certain type of vehicle over a long term – as the figures suggest for this region.

Further research into demand for automatics continues and we will report on this in due course.

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