Opinion: 'We're 'buying 2,200 imports a week... while new-car registrations are down almost 5pc'
It could well come to pass this year that we'll buy as many, if not more, used imports than new cars.
That's good news for thousands who see themselves saving a lot of money on imports. But, on a broader scale, the relentless growth of used UK buying is raising a number of key questions.
What if the buying continues, or increases, at this rate for the next two or three years? What if used import numbers hit 125,000-130,000? What if new-car buying drops under 100,000? What are the ramifications for you?
For example, what will your UK trade-in be worth? Where will you sell it? Who will buy it? Will most of us give up on owning a new car? Will it bother you that you're bringing in older, dirtier cars, especially diesels, from the UK? And where does it all leave our emissions targets? How will reduced volumes of new cars impact on jobs in the industry here?
These are obvious questions. There are many more and they'll grow because the overhang from Brexit could extend for a long time. How do we cope with that? Could/should the Government be sourcing counter measures to fend off purchase of older diesels, for example? A scrappage scheme?
We're already buying 2,200 imports a week while new-car registrations are down almost 5pc.
The SIMI quarterly review by economist Jim Power forecasts we will buy almost 115,000 used imports (up 20pc) this year but only manage to register around 118,000 new models (down 10pc).
That is a narrow gap. And if you take out the level of 'pre-regging' (cars registered but not sold as such) my earlier premise is not far off: 4,500 new cars were 'pre-registered' in the last day of January alone to meet sales targets.
Maybe we are already buying more imports than new cars in real terms.
It's probably not the right time to raise these questions and I risk being accused of being pro-industry. But the import challenge looks like lasting longer than many experts foresaw and we have to ask if it's going to be a case of short-term gain versus possible long-term pain.