Record car sales fuel a sense of optimism among Norfolk dealerships
The region's independent car dealerships said they are optimistic about the sales outlook after mounting record new car sales last year.
Monthly payment deals and reduced costs were the key factors which sparked high sales for new motors in 2014, according to industry chiefs and analysts.
It comes as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported new car sales reached more than 2.47 million in 2014, with an especially strong performance among low-emissions vehicles.
At 9.3pc higher than the 2013 figure, the 2014 total brought sales up to their pre-recession levels with only the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 seeing more registrations.
Paul Hewitt, director of Norfolk Motor Group (NMG) on Mile Cross Lane, Norwich, said monthly contracts meant ownership had never been so cheap, with budgeting the key factor for most buyers.
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Mr Hewitt said: 'Choosing a new car is like a mobile phone contract now - people look at how much it's going to cost each month. And why buy a used car when the new ones are so affordable?'
One reason for recent high sales might be people replacing the cars they bought in 2009 under the government scrappage scheme, which encouraged owners to buy a new car and scrap older ones, said Mr Hewitt.
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The company has seen family cars, such as the Kia Sportage and Suzuki Swift, bucking the national trend for smaller models as its biggest sellers last year.
Tim Holden, chief executive at Norwich-based Holden Group, said some cars have become cheaper as their lower emissions means they have little or no vehicle tax.
Meanwhile, a shrinking supply of used cars has pushed up their value making new cars such as the Volvo V40, Honda Jazz and Renault Clio attractive to buyers, Mr Holden added.
He said: 'I am optimistic. Finance plans like contracts mean sales are coming in cycles, which is good.'
Glass's, the largest vehicle data provider in Europe, said today that more and more drivers are opting for pay monthly deals when looking into having a car.
Rupert Pontin, Glass's head of valuations, said: 'Consumers, especially what you might call the younger 'direct debit generation', have become accustomed to buying a large range of often high-priced products and services on a pay monthly basis. Why not cars?'
Mr Pontin did warn the trend might swing towards leasing cars rather than buying them, after which the chances of them opting to buy a car next time, even on a loan, would be low.
Stuart Stone, managing director of East Anglia–based Desira Group, said consumer offers and the unique position of each manufacturer in the market had contributed to last year's rise.
He said: 'The 2014 total new car market in the UK is no surprise to the Desira Group, due to the increased new car sales we have experienced across all our branches and brands in the year.
'The expectations are the first half of 2015 will remain buoyant, with a possibility due to the economy and potential interest rate rises of sales slowing down in the second half.'
The SMMT report also pointed to a strong outlook for ultra-low emission vehicles, with registrations of plug-in cars increasing from 3,586 in 2013 to 14,498 in 2014.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the plug-in area of the market was expected to grow significantly with new models coming through in 2015 while the rest of the market was expected to remain stable.
Mr Hawes said: 'Pent-up demand from the recession years combined with confidence in the economy saw consumer demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles increase, coupled with a growing desire for reduced costs and greater efficiency.'
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