Currently reading: UK car sales figures skewed by retailer self-registrations, says insider
Growing sales numbers could be a reflection of retailer registrations rather than genuine sales according to one source

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.”

European car sales reach highest level since 2007

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.

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KlazTerp 8 January 2017

Self registration is rather

Self registration is rather common, all over Europe. GM is one of the companies that does it the most. In 2016, about HALF of the cars sold in Germany were self registrations.

In 2016, Opel wanted to write growth figures again for the first time in a long time. A sales increase was the main goal. And that is happening: the firm in Rüsselsheim (Germany) regularly report rising sales: In November Opel sold 19,300 cars, the market share in Germany rose to around seven percent.

However, the success is mainly based on self-registrations. This is the result of a study by the Center of Automotive Research (CAR) reported by the newspaper Handelsblatt. According to them, this year almost every second sold Opel was registered to the manufacturer, its dealer or a rental firm.
These cars can later be sold as young used cars with high discounts. This drives the sales figures upwards, but the profit decreases. According to the study, no other German manufacturer has such a high quota of self-registrations as Opel.

The text above is based on a google translation, slightly edited for grammar and such. The original article, in German, is found here.

Self-registration is fairly common in Germany. But these figures from Opel are really bad. The article further notices the negative impact Brexit has on profitability.

supermanuel 8 January 2017

Don't pay book price

There are literally hundreds of pre-reg FIAT 500Xs on Autotrader at the moment, most of them with one dealer group and all significantly reduced. The same with Corsas, hundreds and hundreds. You'd be an absolute idiot to pay book for one of these.
sierra 8 January 2017

Presumably Autocar couldn't afford a copy...

...of last October's CAP HPI survey on the subject, or just got around to reading it?