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A vote to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum could damage the UK’s new car market and lead to massive economic uncertainty.
Kia Motors (UK) chairman and chief executive Paul Philpott told a brand and market briefing for journalists this morning that he hoped an annual new car market of 2.6 million to 2.7m units could become the norm – but a Brexit vote would threaten this.
“If we stay in the EU we will see a 2.7m unit new car market this year and my hope is this will become normal. Such a position would give stability; an exit vote would affect consumer confidence in one of the biggest purchase decisions people make, a new car. It will also mean a leap into the unknown.
“Trade agreements can take two, five or even 10 years to finalise, so we won’t see an immediate impact of an exit vote in these terms, but we also don’t know the impact on the strength of the Euro or Stirling.”
Philpott (pictured) cited an Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ survey in March, which revealed 77% of its members said staying in Europe was best for business.
Looking at the reasons why the EU is important to them, SMMT members said at the time access to EU automotive markets has a positive impact on their business (66%).
This is followed by a majority saying that access to a skilled workforce (55%) and the ability to influence industry standards and regulations (52%) also have a positive impact on their business.
Dealers are being advised to ensure a ‘two-pronged’ approach to selling cars to ensure all age groups are at ease with the process, in both the showrooms and online.
The message comes from sales generation specialists Buyacar.co.uk which asked 500 consumers of their car buying likes and dislikes.
Austin Collins (pictured), who co-founded Buyacar.co.uk as an online marketplace for dealers, said: “Older people appear to be slightly more strongly attached to the traditional motor dealer than younger people and also more confident with the traditional face-to-face way of buying cars.
“But almost half of the under-55s in our survey said they do not feel confident in that scenario.
“So it’s no surprise that confidence in the alternative car purchase process of buying online is growing more quickly among those people.
“All this suggests that a two-pronged approach for motor retailers will work best for dealers.
“That means providing great facilities to inspect the product but also making stock available online on a ‘buy it now’ basis is the best way for dealers to capture all of the available customers out there most effectively.”
Discomfort with the traditional car buying process is reported by almost half of all motorists under the age of 55.
In contrast, confidence in the idea of buying cars online is growing fastest among the same group.
Older people are less daunted when buying from dealers in the traditional way and are much more likely than those under 55 to describe themselves as comfortable negotiators.
Just 57% of people under 55 describe themselves as happy, confident customers in the dealer environment.
At 62%, more older people described themselves as confident to buy cars in the traditional way.
And a massive 85% of older people believe they are comfortable negotiators, compared with just 55% of younger people.
Although there is growing comfort across the board with the concept of buying new or used cars online, it is more marked among younger people.
This is illustrated by 43.6% of consumers under 55 saying they are more confident now with the concept of buying cars online and unseen than they used to be.
Among older people the figure is 20.7%.
Overall, 22.5% of under-55s say they would now be happy to buy a car online without seeing it first – slightly ahead of those aged 55+, where the figure is 19.8%.
Buyacar.co.uk customers were not targeted by the research, so the results are not weighted to favour users of the business.
The slightly stronger attachment to traditional dealers among older people is underscored by other insights from the survey into the consumers’ car research process.
Older people are more likely to visit dealers during their research than younger people.
Of those aged 55 and over, 73% will visit dealerships in the pre-purchase phase compared with 66% of people under 55.
Over-55s are also less likely to undertake extensive online research too, with 63% reporting it as a main source of information compared with 77% of younger people.
Older people also reported themselves as less influenced by opinions published in traditional motoring magazines than younger people.
Direct contact with motor dealers during the purchase process is also much more likely to be sought by the 55s and over.
Just over 87% of older car buyers say dealer contact is important, while for people under 55 the figure is 82%.
Business Minister Anna Soubry has promised to close a legal loophole which allows which allows vehicles to be clocked.
While knowingly selling a clocked car is fraud, it is not illegal to alter the odometer’s mileage.
“We [the government] will stop it,” she said.
The European Parliament said last year that all states had to have procedures in place by May 2018 to ban companies that offer clocking services.
The announcement follows a campaign in The Sun which asked four companies to alter mileages, which they did.
Last year Glass’s warned that clocking was on the increase because of growing sales of PCPs.
Consumers get the mileage reduced to avoid penalties imposed for exceeding the agreed limit.
The NFDA has been calling for the government to do more to tackle the issue of odometer fraud in particular mileage adjustment companies in the UK since the launch of its Mileage Fraud campaign in September 2015.
NFDA director Sue Robinson said: “We are concerned over the robustness of the current EU proposal to outlaw mileage correction companies by 2018, warning it does not do enough to tackle the growing issue of clocking.
“It is estimated that between 1.6million and 3million cars may have had their mileage altered and in the next three years thousands more cars will continue to be clocked- hugely compromising the safety of cars on UK roads.
“A broader zero tolerance stance must be adopted. We continue to call on government to draft legislation to tackle the problem, and fully support the Sun’s investigation.”
After eight months of falling pump prices RAC Fuel Watch data has revealed the average price of petrol rose three pence a litre in March.
The rise follows an increase in oil price which increased to over $40 a barrel for the first time since 4 December last year. The cost of a barrel of oil increased eight per cent from $35.91 on 3 March to $38.70 at month end causing the first upward shift in forecourt petrol prices since July 2015. At the start of March the average price of a litre of petrol was 101.91p but by the close it was 105.26p.
The wholesale price of petrol, including VAT, increased six pence a litre from 97.13p to 103.19p, suggesting that the pump price is likely to go up again in the coming weeks.
Supermarket fuel prices, which are traditionally the lowest in the country, also went up. At the start of March, the average supermarket price of a litre of petrol was 99.88p but by month end a litre cost 102.19p – a rise of more than two pence.
Worryingly, RAC Fuel Watch data for March shows diesel forecourt prices also increased by 3.7p a litre – 101.56p to 105.26p – even though the wholesale price only rose by 1.5p a litre (98.12p to 99.59p). RAC suggests tis indicates that retailers are once again either using the lower diesel wholesale cost to subsidise the price of petrol or using it as a means of increasing their profit margin.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said, ‘The good times for motorists enjoying lower fuel prices had to come to an end at some point, but unfortunately it’s happened with a bit more of a bump than motorists were probably expecting. With an important oil production meeting scheduled for mid-April, more bad news at the pumps may be on the horizon.’
A £50 million pothole fund announced in the budget ‘will fail’ to halt the decline of the local road network in England and Wales, new research suggests.
The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey, published last week, claims underfunding, severe weather and increased traffic is taking its toll on local roads.
It estimates the one-time cost to get roads in England and Wales back into a reasonable condition is now £11.8 billion.
“Our roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than they can be repaired,” said Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance.
“The network is ageing and the cumulative effect of decades of underfunding is continuing to take its toll. Add in the impacts of flooding and increased traffic and you start to appreciate the scale of the problem our local authorities are facing.”
The Government has set aside £6bn to fund local road maintenance between 2015 and 2021, and claimed the additional £50m announced in the budget would enable councils to fill nearly a million potholes.
However, the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which commissioned the ALARM survey, told Fleet News that overall budgets for highways departments in England have dropped by 16%.
This, it says, is reflected in the increase in average budget shortfalls – the difference between the money highways teams need to keep the carriageway in reasonable order and the amount they actually receive – which has risen by almost 50% (from £3.2m to £4.6m, year-on-year).
Peter Box, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said the shortfall in funding was leaving councils “trapped in a frustrating cycle” which results in them only being able to “patch up” deteriorating roads.
He added: “Councils share the frustration of motorists having to pay to drive on roads that are often inadequate.”
Across the country, Kwik Fit says that 6.3m drivers suffered damage from hitting potholes in their car or van over the past year, with repairs to tyres, wheels, suspension, exhausts or other bodywork costing an average of £108.60.
It estimates that they collectively faced costs of £684m as a result of the damage, but the ALARM survey reveals only £13.5m has been paid out in compensation in England and Wales, just 2.1% of the total cost of damage.
Kwik Fit found that, collectively, the greatest financial impact has been on drivers in the south east, who have had to pay more than £108m for repairs caused by potholes, followed by drivers in London, with the capital’s roads causing £91m worth of damage.
Hitting a pothole is most likely to have caused damage in Yorkshire and Humber, and London, where more than a third (37% and 35% respectively) of drivers hitting a pothole had to make repairs. Welsh drivers were most likely to be financially unscathed from the impact of a pothole, although even here 17% faced repair bills.
The past year saw the wettest November-January period on record, with surface water a significant factor in many drivers hitting potholes.
Almost a third (31%) of drivers who hit a pothole in the past 12 months say they did so because it was hidden by water and they thought it was just a puddle.
Kwik Fit found that nearly half (46%) of those hitting a pothole said they would have risked colliding with other traffic if they had swerved around it, while 4% admitted that they were driving too fast, and couldn’t stop in time.