Car makers are accused of distorting sales in a desperate attempt to boost August figures.
Observers believe that the practice known as “back end loading” – whereby unsold card are pre-registered to dealers – led to an unprecedented 47,000 cars being registered last Monday, the penultimate day for registrations.
It moved what was expected to be a flat market, growing as little as 1.9 per cent, to one that grew by almost nine per cent. Most observers expect the final market will stand at 475,000 cars.
Because pre-registered unsold cars are then sold on at discounted prices, depressing sales later in the year, the move could force car manufacturers to increase marketing spends.
“It is clear that if the market has grown because of late pre-registrations, that will depress the retail market in September and October,” says Volkswagen marketing director John Abbott.
“Even without this, the level of marketing spend will remain high through the autumn. It will depend on the volume targets set by manufacturers whether the spending increases further.”
Market leader Ford and its closest rival Vauxhall both deny that they have been involved in any pre-registrations describing it as “backwards marketing”.
“We categorically do not go in for pre-registrations,” says a Ford spokesman. “We incentivise dealers and they are anxious to close deals with people who have been wavering.”