The growing use of “upstream marketing” by motor manufacturers and leasing companies could explain why the long-heralded explosion in used car numbers has so far failed to materialise.
The advanced strategy – designed to defleet cars quickly through online channels – could explain the smaller-than-expected increase in used car numbers hitting the wholesale market in Q3 2016, a development that was uniformly forecast by industry experts at the start of the year.
Rupert Pontin, director of valuations at Glass’s, said, “Our forecasts were based on the large increase in new vehicle sales seen in the last 2-3 years, mostly sold on PCP, that should now be visibly returning to market and pushing down values over and above the normal levels
“The usual statistics that we use to track used sales are showing this to a degree but not to the same extent as expected. However, these cars must obviously be re-entering the market somewhere.
“We are starting to see evidence that an increasing proportion of them are being disposed of through upstream remarketing strategies. They are present in the market and are being sold, just not through the traditional routes such as motor auctions.”
Rupert explained that upstream marketing covered a range of new routes to market that were generally characterised by inspecting and processing a vehicle into sale even before the original lease had come to an end, all using online technology.
“It is all about converting the asset back into cash as soon as possible because delaying disposal by weeks or months is a major expense for leasing companies or manufacturers that are defleeting.
“Our view is that, so far, this strategy appears to be working. The danger of the arrival of a glut of similar used cars on the market is that they drive down values. This has happened but to nothing like the degree that we would have expected. Our data indicates that volume is running at 1.9% up year to date in comparison with 8% for the full year in 2015.
“There are several models that were sold on PCP in large numbers in 2013 and 2014 that could easily have fallen by 5-6% in value in the second half of this year but, instead, are running at around half of that level.”
The key issue moving forward, Rupert added, was whether upstream remarketing could continue to curb the worst effects of larger used vehicle volumes?
“Our forecasts continue to indicate that the numbers of used cars arriving on the market will increase well into next year and whether this more advanced form of remarketing will continue to be as successful is open to question.”