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CAP Trade watch: 33% down, 22% up...

Research in this year’s retail used car market is a mixed picture. A busy December, followed by a slower January, promoted nervousness.

Anecdotal reports throughout the early months of 2005 typically painted a picture of poor retail sales performance, so further investigation was undertaken.

A representative national sample of independent retail used car dealers were contacted in March and asked to compare this year’s business results with the same period 12 months ago. The current market, it appears, is “hard work” and dealers are “struggling” to maintain or build momentum following last year’s growth.

The national picture shows more than 23% of dealers are increasing retail used car sales year on year, while just over 35% are reporting a decrease. The remaining 41% of the sample are holding steady.

Performance varies widely across the UK. The most positive responses came from Yorkshire & Humberside with a 50/50 split between those who were continuing to grow business and those who were maintaining performance compared with last year. No respondents reported a decline in sales.

In Northern Ireland 60% of respondents have grown sales, while 30% have maintained performance – and just 10% have suffered a decline. Contrast this with the North East, where 72% of dealers made fewer retail sales so far this year than in the first three months of 2004.

Just 9% were enjoying growth, with the rest maintaining stability. No dealers sampled in Wales or the North West reported improved business. The North West sample revealed the worst results so far, with 80% making fewer retail sales.

While it’s clear 2005 is more challenging than last year, there’s still plenty of retail used car business to be had. In short, it’s tough out there, but not too tough.

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