Three years ago, in 2001, the March new car registrations reached 408,024. This was 6,028 higher than the previous year's March figure of 401,996 when the W-reg was introduced.
The last of the old system plate – the Y-reg – will start to be de-fleeted in the coming weeks and although only three years old, the plate is looking dated. This is mainly the result of having five plate changes since – and a sixth with the 04.
The 400,000-plus figure was by far the largest number of cars registered in Europe in 2001. Germany came next with 356,024, also in March 2001.
However, the difference is that it is not unusual for Germany to register about 250,000-plus vehicles every month, but with a consistent performance like this all year. The UK market sees massive variances, with anything up from as low as 77,000 sales in August 2001.
These monthly variations, coupled with the twice-yearly plate change, do nothing to help the used car market because it ensures difficulty in consistently finding a balance between supply and demand.
So, after next month, we can expect another massive influx, based on the 2001 Y figures. Of those sales, 52% were to business and 48% to private retail. With an estimate of just over 50% fleet and business sales and taking out the rental and short-term vehicles, including demonstrators, we potentially have 150,000 cars about to reach the market.
The impact of this will be reduced, however, due to the many extensions to current leasing contracts – although contracts that were extended last year will bring more four-year-old cars back with extra-high mileage.
With the Y plates about to be de-fleeted, buyers need to be found. This was not a problem last year, due to the shortage of used cars. Research shows that this year the market is performing at similar levels – with comparable conversion rates and higher in some cases.
Make no mistake – nice, clean desirable cars are making all the money – but the trade does have some room to pick and choose, due to volume, and this means cars which require work can be left behind.
As always, therefore, the key to disposals success is good presentation, to ensure a first time sale.