Shock at pre-reg sales

BMW 320d SE 62 plate
11 Sep, 2012 6:22pm Chris Ebbs

A third of new cars registered may be pre-registered, according to data from valuation expert CAP

As many as one in three new car sales have been registered to dealers rather than real buyers, claims valuation specialist CAP.

Its investigation found two dealer groups had pre-registered 80,000 cars between them in July. Another dealer reported a rise in registrations that covered up a six per cent fall in true new car sales.

Hard-pressed dealers will often pre-register cars to themselves, with these models artificially inflating their sales figures so they hit bonus targets. The car will then be sold at a discount as an ex-demo or nearly new model – as our examples show.

CAP is calling for transparency on pre-reg figures. A spokesman said: “It’s the industry’s worst-kept secret, but the pros outweigh the cons. Buyers get big discounts on nearly new cars, plus it keeps dealers afloat and maintains manufacturer and supplier jobs.”

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) publishes figures of cars pre-registered by manufacturers, but not by dealers. Its spokesman added: “We support transparency, but have no say over dealers. While we’d like to see the true state of the market, it’s difficult.”

As well as the savings, pre-reg buyers get the advantage of the car’s warranty, which transfers to the new owner. Even Vauxhall’s 100,000-mile lifetime warranty – normally only available to the first owner – is offered, providing the car has done less than 200 miles. But a model could be well into its warranty period, even pre-registered a year ago.

Having pre-registered a car, the dealer must keep it for at least 90 days before it can sell it on. But it could try to sell the car straight away, then keep hold of the V5C document to cover the time period – which is illegal.

New car sales continue to increase in 2012. Figures for August were up 0.1 per cent year-on-year, with 59,433 cars registered. Of these, 27,562 apparently went to private buyers. The Ford Fiesta continued to dominate the charts, as the top seller for the month. Plus, 9.4 per cent more UK-built cars were sold than in August 2011.

Make and model Price new Price pre-registered Saving
VW Golf TDI Match (12-reg with 50 miles) £20,015 £18,000 £2,015
Vauxhall Corsa S (12-reg with 10 miles) £11,625 £7,747 £3,878
BMW 320d SE (12-reg with 15 miles) £28,080 £22,850 £5,230