Tuesday 22 August 2017

Used imports are surging ahead - could they reach 90,000 this year?

Impact on trade-in values 'difficult to assess' as new-car buyers expected to drive busy 172-reg

Used car imports
Used car imports
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

This time last year, used UK import registrations were running at a rate of around 5,500 a month.

They began picking up after the Brexit announcement and peaked at nearly 8,000 in November before dipping back in December.

The late-year increase pushed overall import numbers to more than 72,000, according to official figures.

So far this year, imports are averaging 7,500 or so a month.

That means every month around 2,000 more cars are being registered than for the corresponding period last year.

Can demand continue at that level? And what impact is it having on trade-ins on the domestic market.

We at Independent Motors are getting a steady stream of stories from people recounting how much they are saving through buying imports.

Their sentiments are reflected in official statistics just published, which show there were 46,006 used cars brought in up to the end of June.

That represents a substantial 42.57pc increase on numbers for the first six months of last year (32,269).

The official figures are courtesy of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI).

And the models most people seem to be buying include the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Passat, Audi A4, Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai i30, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Opel Insignia and Mercedes E-Class.

If the trend continues, it is easy to calculate how import numbers could hit the 90,000-plus mark for the full year.

But while some observers are expecting the volume to continue at current levels, others now forecast a steady trailing off.

The next couple of months could give a big clue about how the year will turn out, but with such uncertainty over the impacts and fallouts surrounding Brexit, no one is forecasting anything with confidence.

Ford Ireland chief Ciarán McMahon told Independent Motors that despite claiming imports were dampening trade-in prices here by €2,000 or so (in an interview with the Irish Independent some time back), it has now become increasingly difficult to put a real figure on the true impact they are having on what a used car is worth against a new model. He also believes there are signs of a decrease in the underlying trend of imports.

And he insists that the new-car market is not being hugely impacted by the level of trading in used imports.

New-car sales may be down 10pc in the year to date, but that reduction could have more to do with wider economic concerns than just the effect of UK imports, he says.

The Ford Ireland chief goes so far as to suggest that the level of interest in new cars for the 172 July plate is broadly in line with last year.

That is echoed by SIMI Director General Alan Nolan.

He says the expected decline in buying manifested itself in the first six months.

But he anticipates that sales in the second half of the year will stay on track to reach the 132,000 total that was predicted at the start of the year.

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