Auction Wholesale Market
The recovery of the UK used car auction market continued through July. The key metrics of first-time conversion rate, sale value and sale volume are returning to track with their pre-lockdown trends. However, the rate of improvement is slowing suggesting that an over-recovery, where the market overshoots and then goes through a period of decline, is becoming less likely.
Sale volumes have recovered to pre-lockdown levels, despite year-to-date new car registrations being down over 40% due to the lockdown. Reduced new car registrations are impacting the volume of part-exchanges generated and the number of contract hire and lease de-fleets.
With the major auction groups continuing to hold only online sales, some buyers continue to be wary about spending substantial amounts of money on vehicles they have seen in person. However, this trust continues to improve as buyers become more accepting of the descriptions provided by the auction houses.
With traditional physical auctions unlikely to return before the end of the year, all buyers are going to have to adjust to the new way of sourcing stock. Whilst there are some challenges around online auctions, there are also advantages – particularly the ability to visit several auctions all over the country in one day rather than spending several hours in the day travelling to one or two physical sites.
Used Retail Market
The used car retail market is showing similar recovery behaviour to the wholesale market. The key measures – Average Sale Price and Days-to-Sell are both positive. Just like the auction market, their rate of recovery is slowing, suggesting they are approaching their natural level.
Glass’s Live Retail pricing tool reports on the average time a car spends on the forecourt, with lower days to sell indicating higher retail demand. The average for July of 59.1 days is still 30% higher than expected, but in the circumstances is a distinct improvement over June’s average of 81.9 days. If the decreases continue over the coming weeks the value for August will be similar to August 2019.
The trends of the key metrics for both the wholesale and retail markets continue to be positive. The rates of improvement are slowing, reducing the spectre of a “boom and bust” recovery and show trading is likely to return to seasonal levels within a few months. September will see the launch of the 70 plate generating more used car volume and activity, although typically the effect of this will not be seen until the latter part of the month.
Overall, registrations in September could exceed those for March, showing how “back to front” this year’s car market has been compared to typical seasonal activity. The new car market is still catching up, however, Glass’s data suggests that total registrations for 2020 will be around 30% lower than in 2019.