independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Era of forced postponement hurts us all

IN two weeks' time or so, we'll be hearing about the first new car sales of 2013. The operative word for the vast majority of us is 'hearing', because few will have any intention of buying. We're hardly able to keep what we have on the road.

And therein lies a big danger – I'll come to that in a minute.

The Budget did more than financial damage. I think it seeped into our minds and outlooks. I firmly believe thousands of people made the conscious decision they will not buy a car, new or used, next year.

I've spoken with several people in the industry.

They are putting a brave face on affairs, but they agree people are looking for any excuse not to buy.

That is a critical point in the fortunes of those who sell as well as those who buy.

Nobody expects anyone to go out buying flash cars at a time like this.

And there is a certain element of not wanting to be seen in even a modest new car while others struggle to keep a banger on the road.

But that misses two key points.

The first is that people are being forced to put off buying new or newer cars and that inevitably means they will have to find more money to change up if and when they are able to confront that prospect.

Make no mistake about it, a car slips from being 'new' to five, six or seven years old quite quickly and the gap between trade-in value and the newer purchase widens dramatically.

It strikes me that those in government do not realise how vital a car has become for families. What is the alternative in so many cases?

Secondly, there is no doubt some garages and motoring industry jobs are in the firing line as a result of what we'll call the era of enforced postponement.

I have seen the downside in some towns around the country with great old names no longer in business and the prospects of jobs for many who worked in them decidedly bleak.

I have also seen a few new places defying the odds and deciding to ride out this storm in the best way they can.

The only way forward, for buyer and seller, is through value for money and reliable back-up from your dealer.

There is no doubt that car prices are probably more competitive than ever when you factor in the level of technological, comfort and safety equipment they now embrace under their bonnets and skins.

And the quality of second-hand cars on the market is, by all accounts, much better.

That's good news for those who can afford to upgrade.

The big danger for the hundreds of thousands of hard-pressed families who can't, is that they will skimp on safety by stretching the intervals between servicing.

Look, I've done it myself back the years but that was when they'd rob you in garages; when they were charging astronomical sums to lift the bonnet.

I have to say those days are over for the most part and there are some genuinely good servicing deals out there if you look any way actively for them.

My Christmas wish for you is that you . . .

• Don't let brake pads wear too much.

• That you change the oil and filter to keep your engine going longer.

• That you have someone determine that your car is roadworthy and that, consequently, your family is safer.

To hell with Budgets and austerity measures and all that goes with them. They will fall where they will and there is nothing much one way or the other we can do about them.

But you can do something about making sure your car, regardless of age, is as safe as you can possible make it.

Safe driving this Christmas and may God look after us all, in our new and older cars, on the roads.

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