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James Baggott: Why a lost parrot made me think of the farce of pre-registered vehicles

Time 12:07 pm, July 21, 2015

James BaggottTHERE’S a lunchtime walk I like to take occasionally. It’s not far from the office and by the sea.

It crosses the course that our editor likes to hit little white balls around with big metal sticks – I say big, I can only assume they’re very small sticks, possibly for children, but I know how much he hates it when people wander through this public right of way, so like to ensure I do it as often as I can so I can tell him about it.

Anyway, pinned to the gate the other day was a sign that got me thinking. It had a picture of a pet bird. ‘Lost African Grey’ it said, declaring a reward for anyone who found it. Under that it simply said ‘Call Dean’. I must have been in one of those moods because all I could imagine was the people of Gosport walking around calling out for Dean, in the hope he’d flutter down from the trees and land on their shoulder.


I think it was the italicised Dean that confused me. Was the bird called Dean? Did the owner really want me – and the dog walkers of our seaside town – to walk around the golf course shouting his name? Did he even know his name? Or was the owner called Dean and in which case what were we meant to shout to attract Dean 2 down from his new perch? I was confused. There were just six words on this sign and I was still lost.

cut_golf_signBut during my walk, I thought about Dean some more. What made the owner make the sign and pin it to this gate? Did Dean like golf? He’s a bird, after all, so what made Dean’s owner think he’d only fly to the beach? How far and wide are these signs spread?

I did some Google research when I got back to the office and Dean could be 30 miles away in one flight – in which case will this sign by a golf course frequented by child-sized Car Dealer Magazine golfers make any difference? So many questions…

I came to the conclusion that Dean’s owner, or Dean, was a desperate man. And in desperate situations we do things that aren’t logical. Like italicising Dean and confusing dog walkers. Which brings me neatly (albeit in quite a lengthy way) around to the point of my column: Desperation.


Depending on which way round you read this magazine you’ve either read (again) about the rising new car sales in the UK or are about to – and, like me, you might be wondering if all really is as it seems. At our CDX15 Expo I hosted a panel discussion between manufacturer bosses and then, following that, with some dealer big wigs too.

The difference in mood was stark.

The manufacturers were upbeat, singing from the same hymn sheet that ‘pre-reg wasn’t a problem’ and that sales were rising and ‘still would’ in 2015. The dealers, on the other hand, looked positively depressed. JCT600 chief executive John Tordoff let rip while Perrys’ Ken Savage blasted manufacturers for their ‘unrealistic sales targets’.

There was a clear dichotomy of opinion – and it was worrying to witness. These bosses on two different sides of the automotive retailing fence couldn’t have been further apart. So what’s driving this division? Greed? Desperation? Well, it could well be the latter.

Steadily growing sales

For the past few years manufacturers have been enjoying steadily growing sales – and they all desperately want them to keep on rising. They’ve got plants to keep happy, bosses to impress. But so much of that is being forced in this market it’s clear the picture that is being painted is in no way as rosy as they’d like us to think.

Pre-registered cars are being forced on to dealers’ forecourts by desperate manufacturers fighting to keep sales figures in the positive. There’s no question as to whether it is happening, it IS happening. Dealers, on the promise of bonuses in line with unrealistic sales targets, are accepting them. Month after month, quarter after quarter. The Perrys chief even described pre-reg as ‘a drug that’s nearly impossible to wean yourself off’.


It takes a strong dealer to stand up to a desperate manufacturer – of which many of them out there currently are – and sadly there are few dealers strong enough to do it.

We’ve been over the pre-reg farce many times before, but now that bubble is growing even bigger and I can’t help but worry it’s about to come to a sad and depressing end.

Much, I fear, like the search for our feathered friend Dean.

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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