April: how was it for you?

  08 May 2012

Publication of the SMMT new car registration figures is an important moment in the monthly routine of Auto Retail Network – so much so that we actually schedule the printing of Auto Retail Bulletin around it.

In the days before the official figures are released, everybody on the editorial and commercial team makes a point of asking our contacts: ‘how’s business’. The feedback helps us inform the analysis in the newsletter, plan future events and reports, and quite often advise other network members who call “for a bit of a gossip”.

Of course, just because we think we know how the month has gone, doesn’t mean that the official figures don’t take us by surprise.

Last week’s news that the market was up by 3.3%, with a near 15% rise in retail registrations, was a case in point. “No way” was probably the mildest reaction; the rest are unprintable.

Usually a significant gap between market reality (everybody we spoke said the last two weeks of the month had been dire) and official registrations can be explained by looking at fleet or small business sales – therein lie clues about big daily rental deals or pre-registration activity.

But, this time, the growth is being led by retail sales, which are much harder to fudge. So what’s going on?

Part of the explanation comes from the fact that April 2011 was a basket case of a month, especially for retail sales; part of the explanation comes from the fact that some retail orders were held over from March; part of the explanation comes from the fact that, as always, certain franchises are performing better than others.

But, do we really have an answer? No, probably not. Showroom footfall continues to be light but conversion rates are good and, apparently, those customers that are coming in are serious about buying.

Olympic athletes are trained to improve performance in the areas they can control and not worry about the rest. With an uncertain, sports-dominated summer ahead, it’s a potential lesson for us all – whatever the official sales figures say.

Rupert Saunders

How was April for you? Should we believe the official registration figures? Do let us know via the contact pages of this web site.

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