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SUV demand falls as fuel costs begin to bite

High fuel prices have started to have an impact on the UK’s demand for used SUVs in the last month, sending values into decline.

Yet franchised dealers contacted by AM insist they don’t plan to turn away customers with thirsty vehicles to trade-in.

That contrasts with some parts of America, where demand for used trucks and SUVs has declined so rapidly that some dealers are refusing to accept them as part-exchanges, instead demanding that customers sell privately first.

Motor auction houses BCA and Manheim both told AM that values of pre-owned SUVs suffered markedly in June, after a buoyant market in April and May.

Smaller models appear to be taking the bigger hit.

Prices for two-year-old small 4x4s at Manheim’s auctions fell 15% compared to the three-month rolling average.

In the two to five-year-old sector, the average value fell 21% year on year.

The large SUV market faired little better, with Manheim reporting a 4% drop in the value of nearly new vehicles and an 8% decline in the two to five-year-old segment.

Older part-exchanges also suffered a 10% decline in value.

BCA reported similar findings, with a 5.5% drop in values for three-year-old large 4x4s.

Simon Henstock, network operations director at BCA, said: “The used market for larger 4x4s is not so much driven by fashion as by need.

"Generally if used buyers are investing in a Land Rover or Range Rover, they are looking for a vehicle to do a job.

“What the average selling price does disguise is that the vehicles do not sell. Anecdotally we are hearing that many dealers are stocking the larger 4x4s in very small numbers because retail demand is so slow,” he added.

Mark Norman of valuation experts CAP said the fashionable SUV seems in decline, and depreciation is now greatest in the SUV/4x4 marketplace – the 5.4% drop in June more than twice that of the supermini sector’s 2.4% –compounded by SUVs’ high new cost.

He added: “Demand decline is already happening.

"That’s why residual values come down. 4x4s don’t make sense in the current market.

"There is a fairly strong supply in used because of their popularity in recent years, but demand has been lost.”

Norman said all buyers will be affected, including retail customers, finance houses which supplied PCPs with guaranteed future values and leasing companies.

“4x4s aren’t going to be worth as much and people have probably overpaid for them in the used market in the past.

The more they spent on the car, the more they’re going to lose,” he added.

Auto Trader told AM that searches for used SUVs on its website had fallen by 10% this year, while adverts for such vehicles had risen 20%, indicating that more owners wish to change.

Nevertheless, Land Rover dealers that AM contacted appear optimistic.

All said sales of their large, premium 4x4s were stable.

And none said they were reluctant to accept particular variants in part-exchange, with several claiming “business as usual” and no issues with sale or disposal of used stock.

That contrasts with Land Rover’s registrations in June recorded by the SMMT, which showed a 29.2% fall compared to June 2007. Fellow 4x4 specialist brand Jeep’s registrations also fell 50%, and both brands are down 11% overall this year.

Other dealers, responding to a topic on the AM Forum, were less upbeat.

One said: “I’ve told my salesmen on more than one occasion in the last few weeks not to do a deal unless the 4x4 part-exchange was underwritten, and that was a part-exchange of our own product at a retailable age and mileage.”

Another dealer said accurate appraisals and knowledge of the market was essential.

“We have struggled to get underwrites on Land Rovers and other 4x4s and anything meaty is getting passed over by the trade,” he said.

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