Press release

Q1 used car transactions | May 2021

Auto Trader's commercial director, Ian Plummer, comments on the latest used car transactions from the SMMT

Commenting on the latest used car results, Auto Trader’s commercial director, Ian Plummer, said:

As you’d expect when comparing against a pre-pandemic January and February, 2021 looks to have had a slow start. However, given the context of closed showrooms, the performance of the used car market in Q1 is very positive and highlights the success retailers made of their buy online channels. Even factoring in the influence of COVID, which had only just started to be felt last year, March was incredibly strong and I doubt many within the industry would have ever believed that circa 90% of ‘normal’ sales volumes could have been achieved from online alone. There’s no mistaking, it is a huge achievement and testament to both the continuing high levels of car buying demand as well as the resilience and agility of retailers who’ve adapted their businesses so well.

 “As the data highlights, sales performance accelerated month-on-month, and following the reopening of physical forecourts on the 12th April, retailers have been able to build on their established digital processes by re-establishing the in-person benefits of seeing, touching, driving and even smelling the car they’ve seen on line and plan to buy. As a result, we have seen the trend continue into Q2, with most retailers reporting volumes above 2019 levels. This confident sales performance has been complemented with strong trading margins thanks to the exceptionally strong levels of price growth, which in April, increased 7.1% year-on-year.

 “Based on these metrics, along with wider economic factors, not least consumer confidence being bolstered by the lowering of the COVID-19 alert level and the return of indoor hospitality next week, we believe used car demand will continue apace for some time to come. However, that’s not to say the months ahead won’t have its challenges, particularly the chip shortage, which will place pressure on both new and used supply levels. It will be more important than ever therefore, that retailers get their stock in front of as many in-market buyers as possible, priced according to the live retail market, and available to buy according to their preference, whether in person at the dealership, or through the same buy online channels that served them so well during the pandemic.”

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