Fleet News

'January sales' spill on to the forecourt

'IT seems the whole of the country is being bombarded with sales. Whether it is warring supermarkets getting us through the doors with cheap coffee and bread, or furniture retailers offering the usual 'pay nothing' then four years' interest free credit, everyone is clamouring for the public's cash.

The holiday companies are also at it with kids going free, no deposit deals and so on. This time of year is always the same, because we're all strapped after Christmas.

The motor trade is no different and just about every dealer has some sort of offer at the moment. Whether it is large bonuses paid on registrations or targets, which can be passed as savings to the customer, 0% or low rate finance, free insurance, cash back or free servicing, the list of offers is endless.

No longer is it simply a case of picking the right car for the customer. Now there is a massive array of deals to examine as well, before deciding which is right for them. This used to be restricted to the volume manufacturers but it is now spreading to players who would never have considered 'offers' and 'deals' a few years ago - such is the battle for market share.

Now, unless they are all very careful, the nearly-new market will become increasingly unattractive unless residuals fall more sharply to re-establish a larger gap. Not something any of us wants to see at all.

The current desperation for consumer spend stems partly from the belief that, from April, increased taxes will take a further toll on consumer confidence. But today's deals on new cars are only good for new car buyers.

So this year has got off to a disorderly start, more so than in previous years, and the chances are that eventually, as the manufacturers fight for market share, blood will be spilt.

There was much activity between Christmas and New Year among some of the larger dealer groups, using TV and press advertising to stimulate new and used car business. It seemed to pay off, even if not as much as they had hoped. But it did bring customers through the doors and if there had been no advertising at all it would have been a very tough time. The fact that cars were sold over the holiday period also created demand at auction for the right vehicles and good money was paid during the first couple of weeks in January to replace sold stock.

To some extent, this has been continuing but the trade is now back to cherry picking and only the best will do.'

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