Next few days will show the 'real' extent of new-car buying
A 38pc increase in people buying cars has set a headline for the year so far but registrations over the next couple of days will provide the sub-text.
Industry insiders have been saying one of the major bonuses so far has been the level of retail purchases.
By that they mean ordinary people buying as opposed to corporate deals or pre-registrations which have boosted figures for so long in previous years.
Last year, especially, the advent of the last few days of a month was marked by a big increase in pre-registrations. That is where cars are registered but not necessarily sold in the true sense of the word. They are subsequently sold as nearly-new for a substantial discount.
Proponents say it is a good thing for consumers as they get lower-priced cars; opponents say it distorts the market and is unfair on those who pay full price at the start of the month.
It will be interesting to see if there is a rush to pre-reg cars for the rest of this week. At this stage retail buyers tend to hold off for a few days until the next month so sales can drop – to be substituted by pre-registrations.
And it will be even more interesting to see the level of retail sales in the first week or two of February.
Meantime, there is no doubting the fact that around 5,000 more people have bought a car so far this month. Many importers say their order books are strong and some sources are already increasing full-year forecasts to 87,000-plus – a 13,000 rise on last year.