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Surge in winter demand for 4x4s could be history, says Glass's

4x4 in the snow

The traditional winter surge in values for 4x4s may no longer be a feature of the market.

The surge has failed to materialise again this year, says Glass’s, with the last few relatively mild winters leading to no spike in retail demand, according to Rupert Pontin, head of valuations.

"Going back five or six years, we had a couple of white winters and a corresponding retail upsurge in demand for 4x4s, especially for what you might call 'serious off roaders'.

"This established a pattern in the mind of dealers and, for a couple of winters afterwards, we saw an increase in demand from the trade but, thanks to warmer weather, no retail surge. This left a lot of dealers going into spring carrying an excess of 4x4 stock, which they had to trade out of at a loss.

"Dealers have a long memory for this kind of error, so are now extremely cautious about the numbers of 4x4s that they buy over winter, especially if the season remains relatively mild."

Additionally, the market is now so well-provisioned by 4x4s that they are no longer seen as a seasonal purchase by the vast majority of buyers.

"The popularity of the 4x4 is so well established that almost every conceivable kind is now available and there is no longer really a lingering perception of them as vehicles that are only for tough weather," Pontin added. "Most buyers see them as year-round family transport, creating consistent demand."

For the heaviest duty 4x4s, especially V8 petrol and diesels, the problem has been compounded by extremely high levels of discounting for new vehicles, driven by the high levels of road tax for the heaviest polluters and thus diluting demand from used buyers.

"Really, high taxation and substantial discounting means that buying used at anything at up to even five years makes a limited amount of sense," Pontin said. "Motorists willing to pay the high running costs for this kind of vehicle may as well buy new and enjoy advantages such as a manufacturer warranty."

The only likely disruption to this pattern is a sudden, heavy and persistent fall of snow.

"If this took place, dealers could very well find themselves with too little 4x4 stock, leading to a buying frenzy and a subsequent spike in values but there is no sign of that happening so far this winter," Pontin said.

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