New car registrations in April were unsurprisingly up on last year with just over 141,500 cars registered, according to data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This was an increase of over 3,000% on April 2020s full Lockdown tally of just 4,321.
Despite a return to sensible numbers, excluding last year’s total, April 2021 produced the lowest number of April registrations since 2011, but coming off the back of over three months of lockdown, with no opportunity for consumers to access physical showrooms, it was not a bad result. It underlines the reliance that the UK buying public has on a physical sales process, with the old adage of ‘bums on seats sells’, which refers to the need for test drives, still proving relevant in today’s market.
The wholesale used car market spluttered back into life in April, although the beginning of the month was quieter than expected. Instead of rushing out in preparation for showrooms to begin opening on 12 April, it took until the latter part of the month for customer activity to ramp up. That said, ever since, it has not stopped and continues to strengthen. The percentage of cars selling on the first time of asking increased in April by 1.7 percentage points to 84.4% compared to March. Pretty much all segments have enjoyed a significant uplift in hammer prices in the first two weeks of May, with convertible models the stand out performer, despite already seeing values increase over the past couple of months.
The outlook for the wholesale market is very good, with demand expected to remain at current levels well into June. What is a little more difficult to predict is what the level of supply will be. More part-exchanges should begin flowing through to auction channels now that the new car market is producing reasonable numbers, and fleet registrations indicate that lease vehicles are being changed, which will lead to more de-fleets, so it will be interesting to see how the supply and demand dynamic develops over the next couple of months.