John Leech, UK head of automotive at KPMG, comments on The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) car sales data released today:
“UK car sales were up by 8.2% in September, which is an important registration plate change month. This continues the trend of surprisingly good UK sales particularly given that it is the UK consumer rather than fleet customers driving this trend. Overall in the first three-quarters of 2012, new car sales were 4.3% up on the first three-quarters of 2012 – a much better outcome than most commentators predicted a year ago.
“So why are sales of cars much stronger than other big-ticket, luxury purchases by consumers? The answer is that the carmakers are encouraging dealers to register the vehicle before they have arranged a sale to consumers by offering dealers pre-registration bonuses. Dealers then tend to offer these cars to consumers as nearly-new but they are included in the official new car sales figures. KPMG’s estimate is that the new car sales figures for the year are approximately 5% overstated by pre-registrations which suggests that the overall market has actually been flat year-to-date.
“The Supply of New Cars Order 2000 requires carmakers to disclose the number of pre-registered cars included within their sales but so far the industry has only disclosed a tiny number of such cars. It would seem therefore that the industry is exploiting a loophole in the legislation – and our research suggests that it is not by asking the dealers to hold onto the cars for at least three months as the legislation permits. The Retail Motor Industry Federation is undertaking a review of the matter and is expected to report its findings shortly.”
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