Will March end well?

  17 March 2014

There are still a couple of weeks to go until registrations for the month of March are totted up, but already I’ve been hearing oddly mixed messages about how new car sales are going. I say oddly mixed, because having interviewed more than half a dozen UK managing directors of car manufacturers at the Geneva Motor Show and having also heard from a similar number of Auto Retail Network members last week, the two groups’ outlooks for the month are very different.

The manufacturers were cautious about expected retail sales, which surprised me after the SMMT reported such a positive sales outcome for February. The retailers I’ve spoken to, meanwhile, were positively brimming with confidence that targets would be met and that retail sales would remain strong.

In the past, if there’s been a discrepancy in views it has usually been the other way round. The only reason I can see for the caution expressed by manufacturers is that they’re looking further ahead and predicting a slow-down in the growth of the retail sales that we’ve got used to in the past two years.

After all, the SMMT is predicting only a slight increase in overall sales this year and, for them to be right, a levelling off of growth must be a factor. The other consistent message from the manufacturers is that while retail sales, or sales growth, will slow as the year goes on, fleet sales will take up the slack.

As ever, only time will tell who’s right.

Tristan Young

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