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Little cheer for used dealers

Christmas is taking its toll on used car dealer confidence as retail customers stayed off the forecourt during the approach to the festive season.

According to the latest CAP Used Car Performance Index dealers in almost every region of the UK recorded a fall in retail sales during November. And dealer sentiment reached its lowest point of the year with a universal expectation of fewer deals during December.

The CAP survey – based on a regionally weighted and representative sample of retail used car dealers is conducted monthly as part of the research process for CAP Black Book.

November, the latest fully analysed month, saw fewer retail used car sales in every UK region except the south west, London and the south east and eastern England, compared with the month before.

But in terms of confidence there was a geographically universal expectation that December would bring a further dip in business – with dealers in Wales offering the most gloomy outlook for the festive season.

November’s largest reductions in sales were recorded by dealers in the East Midlands and Northern Ireland while the best performing region was the south west, where half of all dealers questioned succeeded in selling more used cars than in October.

Black Book managing editor, Daren Wiseman, said: “We are now into the worst trading period of the year and this is reflected by a universal expectation of low retail sales during December. However, our research confirms that dealers are taking advantage of this opportunity to concentrate on buying stock for the New Year. They are determined to woo customers back in January by offering the best possible choice along with high value deals.”

Used car retail sales performance – regional highlights November

Eastern: The gloomiest outlook of all the regions in October was not borne out when November saw dealers in the east achieve sales stability overall. Only a quarter of dealers sold fewer cars than during the previous month.

East Midlands: This proved the joint worst performing region in November, following a run of strong retail sales. Dealers here are undaunted, however, with the lowest expectations of further falls in December.

North east: One of only two regions where a slim majority of dealers expected to maintain their October sales figures through November, dealers here turned in the fourth best result nationally.

Northern Ireland: Following a strong run, around half of the dealers questioned here expected a dip in retail business in November. The outcome was close to expectations, with 55% losing sales.

North west: Here dealers recovered somewhat from the second worst results in October to achieve joint best fifth place nationally – also defying their gloomy outlook for the weeks following October. November saw them among the most optimistic for the month ahead.

Scotland: Following a strong run of growing retail business, dealers north of the border saw the joint worst results nationally in November. They were also among the least confident of sustaining retail sales during December.

South east & London: This is emerging as one of the most successful regions of the year with overall growth in retail sales achieved in November – one of only two regions to record such a result.

South west: The best performing region in the country for November, only one in ten dealers recorded fewer retail sales than during October while half of those questioned achieved growth in their used car sales. Nearly three quarters do, however, expect December figures to be down.

Wales: Welsh dealers have struggled to maintain business momentum during the winter months of 2004. Just 20% of those sampled achieved growth in November while 60% saw retail sales reduced in comparison with October. None in the sample expected December to bring growth.

West Midlands: With October spelling the end of a run of exceptionally good results, November brought the region back into line with the rest of the country. Twenty per cent were forecasting some growth in December but the majority reported expectations of stability or fewer sales.

Yorkshire & Humberside: Despite a poor month in October – and a majority expectation of worsening business results in November – dealers here were equally split in fortunes. Half saw reduced sales but 20% achieved growth, with 30% maintaining stability. Half of the sample here forecast lower sales in December.

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