Fleet News

Manufacturers should reassess who buys new cars, says CAP

March is here and with it the 02 plate. Nobody really knows yet what the market will do this year, but if previous years are anything to go by, it will have to be good to beat them.

In 1998 there were 213,374 new cars registered in March and in 1999 there were a staggering 370,060 registrations, a 73 per cent increase. In 2000 there were 401,972 and last year, 408,024.

Looking back to 1999, the year of the T plate, these are now three years old and a vast number are about to be de-fleeted. The increase over 1998 was more than 156,000 and now these extra cars have to be absorbed into the used market, so the competition to dispose of them will be intense.

If only half of those registered were fleet cars on a three year contract then potentially we have over 185,000 cars about to hit the market. Looking forward to next year this figure will be over 200,000, a huge number of cars to be retailed. They are appearing at the right time of year, approaching Spring with a buoyant used car buying time expected. However this could be upset by the number of new cars that could be sold over the coming months as manufacturers battle it out for market share. They will be offering incentives to both fleets and the private buyer, such as free insurance and nought per cent finance. These are all things which could tempt the buyer from used to new and make the new car much more affordable. Let the battle begin.

It has been interesting over the past few months to hear about how manufacturers see the future and who they would like to see driving the all-new models being launched. It appears that most car makers, or their marketing departments, have a desire to see much younger people sitting behind the wheels. They are aiming directly at the mid-thirties audience and paying little regard to anyone over forty-five.

Reality has at some time got to kick in with the marketeers. They must realise that older people do buy cars, both new and used. And those with the money tend to be over forty. Actively going for a certain 'perfect' customer could detract from sales and put off some of the older folk, or those who can actually afford the new car. However, it is a fact that to have younger people driving a new car does help with it's image.

The manufacturers are also telling us how their market penetration will increase and how many more cars they are going to sell this year and next. If you were to add up all the projected sales then we will have a new car market of around three and a half million vehicles this year and all being driven, they hope, by thirty-four year old blondes who work in advertising.

Used car sales continue to be buoyant, or at least consistent, with no real ups and downs. However as always the cars have to be right - and how many times has that been said? But it has never been as true as it is now. Many more leasing companies that I speak to are taking advantage of smart repairs, using either independents or the auction companies. This is certainly paying off for them but they have to be realistic and only repair those that will make a retailable car. For those that won't, or have too high a mileage, they should just take the hit and leave it alone. Sometimes the trade are best at re-furbing.

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