The Gavel - December 2021
Wholesale market opinion from our resident car and LCV auction experts, Andy Conde and Stuart Peak.
Andy Conde - cars
As we approach the end of another pandemic-hit year, we look back at a time in which the way our market operates has changed dramatically, coupled with unprecedented price rises. We could never have imagined at the start of the year the extent of the supply issues we’ve seen, nor that that used car values would increase nearly 25%, but that’s where we find ourselves today.
I reiterate my view that I cannot see the usual January madness happening as we enter 2022, but it’s impossible to predict with any certainty, so I will caveat this by saying that the lack of supply might see some small price increases for certain models. But when you consider the price increases we’ve already seen, I do not see any room for further significant rises, and now, with the emergence of this new COVID-19 variant, the markets could simply stall if further restrictions and cautiousness return.
So, let’s look back over the past year. In January we were in a third lockdown in just ten months, yet demand for used cars took off. In tandem we saw conversion rates regularly hitting 90% and many auctions selling out with some eye watering prices being paid – a trend that continued until just six weeks ago when we finally started to see a softening of the markets.
But the job has certainly not dropped off a cliff, it has stabilised. And for the first time in a long while, some vehicles look to be sensibly priced while still achieving well over reserves, keeping vendors happy. It seems buyers are still out there with money to spend.
We have all become used to online trading and have successfully proved to those buyers not previously accustomed to online trading that it is easy, reliable, and comes with the benefit of saving countless hours stuck in traffic. And while it was great to see Manheim Auction Services return to physical auctions at six centres in second half of the year, the success of our online sales meant the appetite for buyers to return to the pre-COVID way of buying cars physically has not been as keen as I personally predicted.
Still, it’s been fantastic to see buyers in person and reconnect with faces I haven’t seen in over a year. They make such a difference to the sale, not always as the eventual winner of the lot, but always as a very enthusiastic underbidder.
In years to come we will still be talking about 2021, and who knows what 2022 will have in store. Suffice to say, motor traders are hardy souls; after every knockback they are renowned for getting up, dusting themselves off and living to fight another day.
And so we once again enter unknown territory. If I were to be brave, I would say that prices will plateau until early May, and then we may have to brace ourselves for a few months of pain where prices will readjust, and demand may not be as forthcoming.
To close, I’d like to say thank you to all my fellow auctioneers for the outstanding job they have done, to all my colleagues at Manheim and Cox Automotive for the support, and to all our customers and readers of The Gavel who have been so enthusiastic and loyal in your comments. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous 2022.
Stuart Peak - LCVs
As predicted in last month’s Gavel, we have seen appetite for LCVs slow in recent times as buyers start to think about an early wind down for Christmas – not unusual at this time of year, with 2020 being the exception.
General feedback over the last few weeks is that retail activity has slowed down now. I am however a firm believer that December is one of the best months to buy, and in the many conversations that I have had recently, I have encouraged buyers to keep purchasing so that their forecourts are ready for January.
We have seen a softening in market conditions over the last six weeks and first-time conversions fell by -2% month-on-month, down to 77% in November. We continue to see our average age and mileage profile increase also, and as reported in last month’s blog, these are at the highest levels that we have seen in nine years.
Average age increased by a further +4.6 months and mileage increased to 86,875, a significant upswing considering just six months ago the average LCV was more than a year younger and had 16,000 less miles on the clock.
Despite this, our average selling price was marginally higher in November than six months ago, even with this big swing in stock profile, reflecting how strong the LCV market has been throughout H2.
Although we didn’t sell a large volume of electric LCVs throughout the month, those that we did sell in November performed incredibly well, achieving 107.66% of guide values and an average selling price of £24,817. I find it encouraging to see strong appetite for electric LCVs in the current climate; it paints a good picture for the future.
We continued to see stock levels of older vans increase, with 46% of all stock sold in November being Euro 5. For me, it is this stock in the 100,000+ miles bracket that is proving to be the most challenging to sell currently, although we have started to see some marginal decreases in guide values on this product more recently. I would advise any dealers taking on part-exchange vans that fall into this category to treat them with a little more caution. As always, condition plays a huge part, and every part-exchange must be inspected prior to agreeing a price.
Average age and mileage for Euro 6 vans also increased month-on-month, with mileage increasing by just under 5,000 miles and age increasing by just over three months, resulting in an overall reduction in average selling price of -£712.
So, as we reflect back on a record-breaking 2021, driven by the much talked about supply issues for new LCVs, word on the street is that H2 2022 will see an increase in automotive parts being shipped from the Far East. If this happens, I would like to think it will help to alleviate some of the manufacturing shortages, although realistically, who knows when we will see this return to pre-pandemic levels.
All things considered, 2021 has been a fantastic year and I thank each and every customer for your continued support at our LCV sales. I wish you all a very merry Christmas – see you back in 2022!