Looking forward to 2019?

  30 December 2018

Few in the car retail trade will look back on 2018 with any fond memories. It was hard, wasn’t it, really hard.  Most manufacturers and their franchised retailers were blindsided by the diesel fiasco, WLTP caused stock shortages and more negative publicity and the B. word dragged everyone down into a pit of despondency from which there seems little prospect of escape any time soon.

Yes, there were retailers and groups making money but to me that merely underlines the resilience of the motor trade generally and the sound judgement and guidance of the best of its managers. It’s a shame some of them don’t run the country instead of car dealerships, but hey, let’s not get political.

So what does 2019 hold for us? On the face of it, little that feels positive. For well rehearsed reasons, sadly all of them probably valid, consumer interest in spending instead of saving will probably tank. I am better off than many but I’ve put a few spending plans of my own on ice for the time being and keeping the cash in the bank until I see how it all pans out.

As the profits erode so greater attention will be paid to the cost of doing business which may drive more mergers and acquisitions and the economies of scale they (should!) bring. Several long established names vanished this year, in my own patch in north Staffordshire the Platts family business shut its doors after several decades and this sorry tale was, and will be, repeated throughout the country in 2019.

I can think of several manufacturers which need to step up to the plate too. Fiat/Jeep/Alfa, Jaguar and DS are just some of those which need to make cars their retailers can sell or at least put in place some decent offers.

Sorry if this strikes a slightly gloomy note but I fear that while 2018 was a year to forget it could just be the curtain raiser for the real horror show that will be 2019. That famed motor trade resilience will be needed aplenty over the coming months!

On which note I wish you all a happy – and hopefully profitable – New Year.

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