Used car supply may never go back to pre-pandemic levels, warns remarketing body

  • Some manufacturers have changed strategy to boost profits, says Vehicle Remarketing Association
  • Cuts in supply because of pandemic have seen prices kept higher
  • Strategy change likely to have significant impact on availability of stock for used car sector

Time 12:35 pm, July 12, 2022

A shift in strategy by manufacturers could mean the supply of used cars never returning to anywhere near its pre-pandemic levels.

That’s according to the Vehicle Remarketing Association, whose chairman Philip Nothard said the past few years had taught some manufacturers that reducing supply and keeping new vehicle prices high meant greater profits.

‘For decades, car manufacturing has been a volume business, not just for mainstream manufacturers but for prestige and even luxury brands, too.

‘Building more was seen as the best way to make money,’ he said.

‘However, when supply was cut substantially during the pandemic, many car makers found they were able to make equivalent or greater profits despite selling fewer units.

‘Reduced volumes meant that they could keep prices higher. For at least some, this is now becoming a future strategy.

‘While they do not want to strangle supply to current levels, with waiting lists of 12 months or longer for a new car they do not want to return to the kinds of production levels seen pre-Covid.’

Nothard, who is insight and strategy director at Cox Automotive, said today (Jul 12) that the change in strategy would likely have a significant impact on the used car sector, changing the availability of stock in the longer term.

‘Obviously, new car supply acts as the funnel to the used car market, and if manufacturers reduce volumes permanently, used car supply will be affected.

‘We’re already in a position where reduced numbers of cars in the market have pushed up prices and values to record levels, but there has been an assumption that the situation will ease over time and return to some kind of normality.

‘However, it’s perhaps looking less and less likely that this will happen.

‘Yes, production will certainly rise, but probably only to a level where the average new car delivery time is perhaps six months.

‘A return to anything resembling pre-pandemic volumes seems unlikely, as far as we can tell.’

Nothard added: ‘Really, the only unknown variable in this situation is whether other parties will move into the space vacated by manufacturers who are reducing volume and take their place.

‘These could be car makers who have an existing presence or new entrants from China and elsewhere. It’s going to be an interesting few years.’

He said the subject was discussed at the association’s annual meeting, which was held last Wednesday (Jul 6).

‘The remarketing sector is facing a number of challenges and reduced volumes are certainly one of them.

‘It’s probably only now that it is becoming clear how much volumes are reducing and what the long-term situation will look like.’

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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