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UK car dealers ‘feeling confident’ about business prospects in 2018

A quarterly dealer attitude survey carried out by Close Brothers Motor Finance has found that 92% of dealerships are confident about market prospects for 2018.

In contrast to dealers pragmatic response to AM’s own ‘Outlook Survey 2018’ the finance specialist’s survey of 200 new and used car retailers found that maintaining stability, expansion of new vehicles types and new finance products all presented “opportunities in the year ahead”.

And the positive feedback from dealers actually marked a striking uplift in positivity from last year’s Close Brothers survey, in which 63% of respondents expressed confidence in their business prospects for the year ahead.

Chris Bosworth, director of strategy at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said: “Our quarterly Dealer Satisfaction Survey is a granular look at the current sentiment of dealers in the UK, and provides us with real insight into current and future priorities of dealers nationwide.

“With technology evolving, consumer behaviour changing, and the heightened political and economic uncertainty since the Brexit vote last year, it’s positive that dealers are feeling confident for the year ahead.”

The Dealer Satisfaction Survey – undertaken between August and October – asked dealers about their business performance, their prospects for the year ahead, and what they see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for their business.

The research found that one in seven (14%) dealers see the expansion of the different types of vehicles on offer and maintaining stability (14%) as the two biggest opportunities for the year ahead.

One in ten see the proliferation of new finance products and a similar number (9%) see changes in consumer behaviour as the biggest opportunity for 2018.

A fifth (21%) of retailers believe Brexit is the greatest threat to their business over the coming 12 months, followed closely by an economic downturn (17%) and legislation and regulation (11%). 

Despite this, the survey found that 57% of dealers are very confident and four in ten (40%) are fairly confident about the business outlook for their own firms in 2018.

AM’s ‘Outlook Survey 2018’ found that 50.72% of franchised retailers expected their turnover to decline in the coming year, with 57.97% expecting profitability to decline.

More AM survey results can be found in the January 2018 edition of AM magazine.

Commenting on the results of the Close Brothers survey, Bosworth said that car retailers would have to adapt to a changing sales climate in 2018. He said: “It’s interesting that dealers cite the expansion of the new types of vehicles on offer as one of the biggest opportunities for their businesses.

The government’s decision to tackle pollution by imposing a ban on all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 has already had a meaningful impact on motorists buying behaviour.

“Since the announcement this summer, the SMMT has reported consecutive decreases in the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles whilst renewable energy vehicles have grown in popularity month on month.

“With consumer support for these vehicles ever growing, it is essential that dealers maintain and grow their understanding of this market and have the right cars on their forecourts.”

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