The continuing change in the profile of available used cars in the current market is creating both challenges and opportunities for the retail sector, according to the VRA.
Whilst there is not necessarily a major shortage of used stock in overall terms, the lack of availability of two to four-year, low mileage, stock is certainly evident.
Consequently, these rarer, traditional retail-quality vehicles are commanding top prices as dealers compete for the prized stock.
Particularly notable is that franchised dealers across the board are having to upwardly extend their parameters of age and mileage in order to keep the forecourts stocked. This has meant that many are having to be more active in the wholesale market, says the VRA.
They are also finding that a high proportion of their part-exchanges, which previously provided a good supply of retail stock, are uneconomical to refurbish to the manufacturer approved retail standard.
Another knock-on effect of this dynamic is being felt by the smaller, independent used car retailers. Similarly affected by the lack of quality stock, quite a number are having to change their retail strategies in order to create differentiation and remain competitive.
The VRA says some are shifting to a more specialised segment/model specific based proposition e.g. 4x4s, estates, diesels, etc, whilst others are just simply moving even further up the age and mileage ranges, with value-based offerings.
One segment that is certainly thriving is used convertibles. Demand and prices remain high with a recent all-convertible auction selling 494 out of 500 cars offered for sale. More and more consumers are now considering convertibles as mainstream cars, now that many models come fitted with hard tops as standard.
The nearly-new sector has experienced a slight fall in prices to date in 2012, caused by more aggressive new vehicle offers being introduced by manufacturers. It is likely that these incentives on new cars will continue throughout the year and, as such, nearly-new vehicle prices will probably remain under pressure in 2012.
There has also been a slight fall in van prices, but demand remains strong and looks set to continue at least to year end. There remains a general shortage of stock particularly of panel vans plated at 3.5 tonnes.
VRA concluded that in the immediate term, prices and overall demand for used vehicles has generally remained strong in the first half of April and the prediction is that, if there is any shift in values at all, it will be minimal in the second half of the month and into early May.