Unsurprisingly for the month, December’s Dealer Dashboard from Manheim shows enquiries, test drives and sales were down between 38% and 42% compared to November.
However, this month-on-month analysis doesn’t actually give us a true picture of the retail market in 2012.
Set in comparison with December 2011’s Dealer Dashboard, the decline in sales is only 5% and the sales conversion ratio is actually 4.4 percentage points ahead.
That could be an indication of how more seriously dealers’ sales team are taking every customer who walks into the showroom, or perhaps of how intent those customers are in actually signing an invoice.
Andy Coulthurst, managing director for Manheim’s classified site Motors.co.uk said: “Between the summer and autumn, I raised concerns that the market seemed to be suffering from a slow and steady erosion.
Looking back through 2012’s results and comparing it like-for-like with 2011, it’s now clear that sales enquiries were down every single month, as were test drives, bar one month, and the picture was the same for sales. Encouragingly though, sales conversions were actually higher in every month.
“All in all, 2012 was a tough year. Retailers had to chase hard for every deal and with rising wholesale costs, profit margins became squeezed.
“While 2013 remains uncertain, one thing we know is that good quality retail stock will remain harder to find so dealers may have to look at broadening their stock profile.”
In the wholesale market, December continued the theme of 2012; rising prices, high demand
and a shortage of stock.
On average, dealer part-exchange vehicles remained within a seven- to eight-year-old range, some six months older than they were at the end of 2011.
Although they had, on average, 1,000 more miles on the clock than the previous year, these vehicles were selling for 8% more than they did 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, the nearly new vehicles fell very slightly in value by 0.2% compared to November.
Daren Wiseman, general manager – Manheim Seller Advance, said: “It looks like this type of vehicle peaked in age and mileage during the summer, as both are slightly lower than they were at the end of December 2011.
“However, these vehicles saw a double digit value increase of 10% last year.
“So, with the FTSE growing by only seven per cent in 2012, wise investment wouldn’t have been in stocks and shares, but in four wheels.”