UK car registration figures are being skewed by retailers who self-register their vehicles, one global real estate advisor has told Autocar.
David Chittenden, head of automotive and roadside at commercial property firm Colliers International, said that while recent increases in car registration numbers is positive news, they don’t accurately reflect the level of sales taking place in Britain.
“The information only takes into consideration those cars registered as sold to dealers,” he said. “Once they have bought the vehicles, these retailers will then need to get them sold to customers; the margins that they are making are therefore low overall with I suspect average dealer profitability likely to be still less than 1.5% on sales.”
Chittenden, who has seen demand increase from retailers for land to store pre-registered cars on, told Autocar that he believes up to 20% of some retailer registrations come from pre-registrations.
“Until the manufacturers and dealers find a solution to this perennial problem, we will continue to see skewed statistics and the real parameter for the industry’s profitability and strength of the market will only be when the next dealer group accounts come out over the next few months,” he explained. “Indeed, much of our time is now spent finding property solutions for dealers to secure compounds and aftersales facilities as the pressure on existing sites continues to grow.”
Chittenden said that retailers are motivated to register as many cars as possible in order to meet manufacturer targets. He said hitting these targets can often lead to bonuses.
However, Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) chief executive Mike Hawes believes the allegations are unfair. He said “No-one has the figures, as it's a matter for the dealers and their choice what they choose to do to manage their stock. There are customer benefits, too - because the stock is immediately available and discounted.
"We are confident it is a very, very small part of the market - and long has been. I do not believe pre-registration is a significant part of the market and I don't think it unduly distorts the market."
Nevertheless, Chittenden maintains that retailers are taking a risk with current pre-registration numbers. “We’re talking about four to six acre sites of pre-registered cars per retailer in some cases,” he said. “The average site has gone up by an acre over the last 10 years. It only takes a bit of a bad news story or economic crisis and these retailers will find themselves in a touchy situation with their stock.”
According to SMMT figures, UK car registration figures hit a record high in 2016, with 2.69 million cars registered across the 12 months, a 2.2% increase on the year before. Experts are predicting a decrease in 2017 due to a combination of economic and political uncertainty.