Tuesday 23 January 2018

From Anglias to EVs: 50 years of valuing used cars

Industry focus: The Car Sales Guide

The 'Car Sales Guide' plays a big part in car valuations
The 'Car Sales Guide' plays a big part in car valuations
A car sales guide from 1968
Aidan Timmons with the new app and the latest little blue book

People often ask how secondhand cars are valued. Obviously, a lot of factors come into play.

But a major contributor for 50 years now has been the compilation of data that lie between the covers of the 'Car Sales Guide'.

You might have heard it called the "little blue book". That's what salespeople refer to when giving you a valuation for your trade-in.

Incredibly, the company behind it has been crunching the numbers for 50 years. Yes, 50 years.

Aidan Timmons with the new app and the latest little blue book
Aidan Timmons with the new app and the latest little blue book

So, we thought it would be an appropriate time to talk to, and about, Motor Trade Publishers, who produce the staggering amount of statistics each month - statistics that affect the value of your car and what sort of deal you are likely to do.

It's a family-run company and it produces the monthly vehicle valuation service to the motor trade.

You certainly know one person involved. It is Aidan Timmons, Residual Value Analyst, whose contributions to our Independent Motors Advice Desk are avidly read here each week.

We asked him to tell us a bit more, especially how the product has evolved over the last half-century.

The Car Sales Guide remains the only dealer-researched residual value resource of its kind in Ireland.

Surprisingly, Aidan says, not much has changed in terms of how they gather their data. "The method is robust. We still rely on dealers' experiences, and the collection and painstaking analysis of this information remains a crucial element to the integrity of our products and the accuracy of our valuations."

Needless to say, they take the job seriously because "ultimately our values affect dealers and customers alike".

The firm's experience in the market is of huge benefit at the moment as sales are lower than expected, Aidan says.

"My dad started working with values when the Ford Anglia was still considered a new car, so it is safe to say we have seen our fair share of products and trends come and go.

"We do not pretend to be infallible but we are not wet behind the ears either. We know the Irish car market intimately and we understand values extremely well.

"Things are getting interesting in the trade. Values are behaving a little strangely, so we are kept on our toes. You have to be flexible and alert in this business".

To celebrate its landmark birthday, the company redesigned its products and introduced a digital version for use by dealers on their mobile phones.

It was a bold but necessary move. Aidan explains: "Modernising the product was a long time coming but the undertaking was massive as we have more than 10,000 valuations spanning every major manufacturer and product on the market. We chiselled away at it without upsetting the delivery of our existing products and we're happy with the result".

The web-application called 'theguide' has a singular function: to return an accurate market value based on a vehicle's registration number.

The process is technical, Aidan outlines. "The background system is hugely complicated and requires data matching and regular updates." As he says, the task of correctly identifying and valuing cars "is not glamorous but the new application is a slick piece of kit" and it is going down well with dealers who are already using it.

So, after 50 years, how has the transition to digital gone for Motor Trade Publishers?

"Our books are still in hot demand but the best part of 'theguide.ie' app is that we have an amazing quality control team in the hundreds of dealers nationwide.

"If there is an issue, they will find it and we are happy if they do. It is in everybody's interest that we get the answers right.

"We have done it for 50 years and we intend on doing it into the future."

Irish Independent

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