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Brexit headwinds trigger 11% decline in March car sales enquiries

Martin Hill, Dealerweb

Brexit headwinds have been blamed for an 11% decline in new car purchase enquiries to UK car dealers during March.

According to lead management experts Dealerweb retailers were left short of leads following the usual flurry of pre-arranged handovers during the opening days of the key ‘plate change month.

Martin Hill, managing director of Dealerweb, said: “A recent survey showed consumer sentiment in Britain fell to its lowest point in more than five years in March.

“It is clear that automotive retail is not immune to these headwinds, but dealers are reacting with structured sales programmes to minimise the impact.”

Despite the number of enquiries coming into dealers from potential buyers falling by double digits, Dealerweb found that overall revenues from new sales fell by a smaller 2.6% during March as dealers increased sales activity with a 5.7% increase in outbound sales calls for new sales.

Total enquiries for used vehicles fell by 2.6% while used revenues increased by 8.3% against March 2018, it added.

Finance penetration increased from 79% to 80% for new vehicles and 44% to 47% for used. 

“Used sales continue to provide a valued and robust revenue stream for dealers with revenues rising in March, in a tough market,” said Hill.

“Finance penetration continues to rise for used sales and provides a strong revenue opportunity as this market continues to evolve.”

Earlier this month the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported a 3.4% decline in new car registrations during March (to 458,041).

Just as ASE chairman Mike Jones had predicted in his car dealer profitability report for February, however, there was “significant variance between brands, with double digit gains and falls amongst different franchises”.

Ford sold more than 9,500 fewer cars during March to top to the table of the month’s biggest registrations decline by volume during the crucial ‘plate change month.

A total of 40,755 Ford vehicles were registered last month, marking a 18.91% year-on-year decline during the month to leave it the sector’s biggest loser by volume, followed by Nissan’s 18.7% decline (down 4,599), Honda’s 15.6% (down 1,853) and Mazda’s 12.8% (down 1,294).

Dacia added 3,330 sales during the month as its registrations soared by 85.47% (to 7,443), Citroën added almost 2,000 sales with a rise of 21.8% (to 11,023) and Volvo added almost 1,200 sales with its 26.5% increase to 10,420 registrations.

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