Saturday 16 December 2017

Older buyers driving market 50(000) trades of grey

Citroen Cactus.
Citroen Cactus.

THE buying market is being driven by confidence, credit and savings. We know about the confidence, thankfully, and we hear a lot about credit.

But the one thing that has surprised me and my Independent Advice colleague Aidan Timmons is the amount of money (remember hard, tangible cash?) people have at their disposal.

Obviously quite a number of people have been saving a good few euro for the past number of years and, increasingly, have been coming back to the salesrooms to buy new or newer cars.

Lots of younger buyers are opting for the PCPs and that is helping to lower the age profile of purchasers.

But the last figures I saw highlighted how so many of those who are buying new cars, or funding such purchases for a partner, son or daughter, are in their fifties and sixties.

They are, if you like, examples of the 'grey euro' who would, prior to the economic collapse, always have had something in reserve, or in bank shares (!) or on deposit earning a modest amount of interest.

But with DIRT and negligible interest rates, their money has not been earning its keep.

Alongside that, many found themselves driving cars that were, almost overnight it seemed, heading down the grey route as well. That's because they didn't replace them during the bad years.

Put all those factors together and you have the motives and reasons for people buying new or newer.

They are certainly helping to push up sales but, every bit as important, they are bringing some badly needed secondhand cars back into the system.

Well-minded six- and seven-year-old models are still commanding decent money and giving other buyers and dealers a parallel channel of sale and acquisition.

Good secondhand cars have been really scarce because, with people clinging on and with so few new-car purchases, the pool shrunk.

Rising levels of used imports acted as a release valve. However with sterling now so strong against the euro, that avenue is being slowly choked off. Not entirely, but the flood has eased to a steady flow. And that is applying upward pressure on secondhand prices because dealers have fewer to choose from.

Don't forget many dealers had to bring in cars themselves to bolster secondhand stock and were, obviously, doing well enough after paying VRT etc.

But the huge leap of sterling against the euro value has made it far less attractive.

Used import numbers, for example, tumbled from a negligible 7.26pc drop in March to a substantial 22.54pc in April and 25.35pc last month. From the figures I've seen for June, the numbers coming in are dwindling by the day.

That is good and bad news. Anyone trading in a good used three or four-year-old car now can expect - indeed demand - a better price for it. That will help reduce their cost of changing.

But for those looking to trade up to one, well the price has just gone up across the board. And even though their own trade-in will probably have benefitted a bit, it's likely to be in the shade of the newer car's increase.

The counterbalance to all that is that - thanks in decent measure to the 'grey euro' - new-car sales are increasing exponentially. That, at least, is helping to maintain a steady stream of used cars and keeping some sort of a lid on their prices.

Irish Independent

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