Used Car Supply May Never Return to pre-Covid Levels    

The Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) has issued a statement saying that, due to changing manufacturer strategies, used car supply may never return to anywhere near its pre-pandemic levels.

Philip Nothard, VRA’s chair, said that some manufacturers see greater profits to be made from reducing supply and keeping new vehicle prices high.

“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.

“However, when supply was cut substantially during the pandemic, many car makers found that 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.”

Such strategies can have significantly impact 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,” said Nothard.

“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 times 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.

“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.”