A selection of Britain’s car dealer bosses believe UK new car sales will hit 3 million units a year in 2017, a record that would leave the UK not far off Germany, which currently has Europe’s biggest new car market.
Speaking at a dealer conference at last night's Autocar Awards, five key UK distributor bosses from Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Ssangyong and Volvo all predicted a significant growth in new car sales, with estimates ranging between 2.8 and 3m units per year.
"We can certainly see a 3m unit market next year if the current growth rate continues," said Ford of Britain boss Andy Barratt.
Barratt said Ford is already ‘geared up’ for 2.8m units this year – an increase of around 200k cars compared to 2015. "If it happened, we could take our share," Barrett added.
Hyundai UK president Tony Whitehorn agreed, suggesting that: "the market will stretch up to 2.8 to 2.9m units this year".
Whitehorn added: "There is obviously anxiety about Brexit, but assuming the market will go the way we think it will, new segments and general demand will drive it."
Lance Bradley of Mitsubishi predicted a rise in sales funded by structured finance deals such as PCPs, particularly among younger buyers who don’t want to own a car, but would like to pay to use one instead.
Paul Williams of Ssangyong is less convinced that the 3m target will be achieved and is concerned about managing the number of cars returning from two-year PCPs to prevent the used market being flooded.
Volvo’s customer service director, Paul Baddeley, believes the onset of ‘self-driving’ cars could speed-up the replacement cycle and accelerate scrappage rates as buyers opt for new technology.
A three million new car market will smash the previous record of 2.6m units set last year. Historically the UK has bought around 2m new cars a year, with three bumper years in 2002, 2003, 2004 when sales broke through 2.5m.
Germany has historically recorded 3m a year and according to figures from IHS Global is forecast to hit 3.2m units in 2017 – meaning that it will keep its lead over the UK, albeit with a narrower margin.