AM Online

World Cup to hit sales?

A cloud of uncertainty has shrouded the motor trade as experts struggle to predict the impact on sales that World Cup fever will have.

Some retailers and carmakers are braced for a downturn in car sales while others are embracing the worldwide attraction and predicting growth.

It’s inevitable that blanket media coverage of the world’s largest sporting competition will outweigh the appeal of buying a new vehicle during the four-week tournament, but industry experts are divided on whether the effect will be positive or negative, or whether it will be linked to England’s performances.

Adrian Rushmore, managing editor at EurotaxGlass’s, publishers of Glass’s Guides, says: “Car buying demands an extensive investment both financially and in terms of time. Major sporting events can dominate recreational time and may defer the buying process to a later date.

“Business lost over this period may not be fully recovered in the post-tournament after match.” And the longer England remain in the tournament, which peaks with the final on July 9, the bigger the effect is likely to be.

However, the World Cup is one of the biggest opportunities to grow a brand and Hyundai has invested millions of pounds as one of the tournament’s global partners. It expects brand recognition and sales to increase globally as a direct result of its backing.

Hyundai hopes that the UK incentive of a full refund to 11 new owners who bought their vehicles in the period May 11 to July 9 will increase sales in its 155 franchised UK dealers. The cash will only be handed back if England actually win the tournament.

But industry chiefs are also divided. Commenting on May’s car sales figures, SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan pinned the industry’s fortunes to English success in Germany. “We hope that easing fuel prices, a burst of better weather and a strong England performance will be reflected in new car sales in the coming weeks.”

However, Sue Robinson, the RMIF’s franchised dealer director is more equivocal. “It’s in the lap of the gods. It could go either way. If England do well there may be a feel-good factor and people will feel like spending money, some on new cars. But they might just stay at home, enjoy the tournament as a whole and not venture out at all,” she says.

“Sales dropped during the last World Cup in 2002, but dealers are better prepared this time. Most have TV sets so people can still shop for cars and watch the games.”

The event is unlikely to have any effect in Scotland, according to SMTA chief executive Douglas Robertson. “If Scotland had qualified and been involved for at least three group games then the World Cup may have had some negative effect on sales.”

However, he mischievously predicts some consequence depending on the fortunes of one Jason Scotland, the Trinidad & Tobago forward, who will be wearing his name, and that of the country, on the back of his shirt.

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