Fleet News

Is the honeymoon over for Y-reg cars?

##CAPsml--left####Martin Ward--right##THERE has been plenty of talk recently about Y-reg cars, both those registered by dealers, and those being imported from Europe. There are, in reality, loads of each of these around and most comply in one way or another with the Supply of New Cars Order 2000.

But in the past few days we have seen yet another type of Y-reg car hitting the forecourts. These are the ones that have actually been used for a period of three months and have some mileage on them. These vehicles have been registered and used by manufacturers, dealers and rental companies but they have been kept off the retail market for this magical three-month period.

The types of car concerned and the mileages involved are vast and varied, and as yet there is no clear pattern for the prices that are being realised. As with all new registrations the honeymoon period is short and the premium achieved for the latest plate is always good for a number of weeks. The danger for this year is the sheer number of 'new' Y-registration vehicles around. This could have a knock-on effect on pre-used vehicles, or those with mileage on them.

The volume of imported cars from Europe is also undermining used values, as the trade realises they are easy to buy and are becoming more and more acceptable to buyers. There can be hidden dangers in some of these imports, but as yet the prevailing customer view is that a car is a car, regardless of its origin.

Over the past few years BMW has fast become a major fleet player, selling more cars than some of the traditional fleet manufacturers. But it has somehow still managed to keep its image of exclusivity and maintain strong residuals, when in reality, with so many in the used marketplace, values could have been expected to take a tumble.

Other manufacturers go green when they see just how well they sell and how sought after used BMWs are. The image associated with owning and driving a used BMW is beyond the comprehension of some in the trade, at both dealer and manufacturer level, but virtually any BMW hitting the market sells and makes strong money.

There are some absolute superstars in the range, with the 3-series Coupe being the one to have. All the latest 3-series sell reasonably quickly providing the engine size is reasonable, with fuel efficiency being important to the used car buyer. The 7-series, which has had a long hard battle for most of its life in the used car market, has recently not been doing so badly. This is down to its more sensible pricing. As the saying goes, anything sells if it is cheap enough.

It is little less than a year before the Vauxhall Vectra finally bows out and its replacement hits the streets. As such it is felt by many in the trade that the last 12 months of its life are likely to be tough, particularly for the nearly new ones.

Those coming off contract at three years old should be able to look after themselves. But other manufacturers will be disposing of nearly new cars which are models that have been launched recently, such as the Renault Laguna, Citroen C5, Ford's new Mondeo and the Volkswagen Passat. But for the moment Vauxhall does not have this luxury and will have to sell on price, rather than the latest styling. Its day will come, but until then, it will have to do battle on an uneven playing field.

The worry for manufacturers such as Ford, Volkswagen and the other fleet players is that a fall in Vectra prices could affect their late platers, which may begin to look expensive in comparison. Careful management of Vectra disposals by Vauxhall should help to prevent this from happening, for the good of the whole of the industry.

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