Predicting the unpredictable
According to figures released by the National Caravan Council (NCC), registrations of motorcaravans in January were up 4.3% compared to last year, at 531 units. The moving annual total (M-A-T) as of January showed a 13.4% increase with 14,084 units registered, confirming that the new market has continued to grow. The chart below shows the volume of motorcaravans registered in January each year, from 2015 to 2018. The chart clearly indicates a trend of rising registrations over the past four years.
“Things couldn’t be going any better, but it feels like the market could fall off a cliff any second”. A quote from a dealer that the Glass’s editorial team spoke to at the recent Caravan, Motorhome & Camping show at the NEC, Birmingham in February. His sentiment seemed to echo through the halls and continues to this day, despite some manufacturers revealing it was their best ever February show.
Despite a few inconsistent months for new sales during November and December, sales appear to have picked up. However, there appears to be high levels of tension and uncertainty in the air, that the market could slow significantly without warning. There are a few factors that could have sparked this concern, the main one being large stock levels. A large number of dealers’ report that their forecourts are at capacity with stocks of new vehicles, and they are not moving at a fast enough rate. A combination of the inconsistent start to the season and deliveries not being as staggered as in previous years means forecourts are at a higher capacity than expected. This in turn is causing customers to be more cautious and not to rush-in to buying. Consumers are educating themselves and researching much more than they used to, which has caused footfall at dealerships to fall. The positive is that sales conversion percentages are up. Private selling is increasing year after year which continues to take business away from the forecourt. If the stock issue continues over the next few months, orders for 2019 units may not come as early as last year, or at such a high volume. Customer purchase incentives have been offered at a higher rate and for longer periods than seen in previous years.
The economy continues to cause apprehension within and outside of the industry, with Brexit’s continued uncertainty and job security a cause for concern. The wild weather we have experienced recently may also have hampered activity, although Easter being early this year may have countered this. It is too early to predict how the market will fare as the selling season winds down in the summer months, most will hope just nothing too drastic happens.
The used market continues to strengthen, albeit at a very slow pace. Demand is still strong, especially from first time buyers wanting to enter the market at an affordable price. The continued stock shortage ultimately still hampers the market, especially due to the continued rise of private selling which is limiting the amount of good used stock that dealers are able to buy. However, that could start to change with rising numbers of five-year-old or younger units from the initial new market boom begin trickling back into the market.
Coachbuilt models with a higher number of berths continue to be the most popular across the market, as do low profile models. Typically, we see Grandparents taking their grandchildren away with their motorcaravan but there has also been a rise in younger families entering the market too. The ‘staycation’ holiday is perfect for families with children and we have seen more and more steadily enter the market each year. This has seen the average Motorcaravan customer age drop three years since 2016. The most favoured models are generally in the mid-premium price bracket, which is often affordable for some consumers with disposable cash still easily available. The van conversion market experienced a busy summer with a few manufacturers purchasing smaller van conversion specialists in attempt to influence the attractive market. There were concerns that the market may have become too crowded but dealers report sales are at a record high again and no signs of demand slowing down at all.
As we enter spring and traditionally the busiest period of buying and selling, all values have been held for the April edition.