The European used car industry is showing green shoots of recovery from the impact of Covid-19 according to the latest INDICATA Market Watch report, which tracks used car sales volumes and price changes by country on a real time basis.

According to the report, there are positive signs that car dealers coming out of Covid-19 lockdown are reviewing and re-pricing their stock, which in turn is helping fuel consumer demand. This is evident in Sweden, Austria, The Nederlands, Germany and Denmark.

However, “there are no strong signs yet that the used market will bounce back quickly to previous levels”. Heavily locked down countries such as the UK, Spain, France and Italy are yet to see dealers start trading and respond to a fall in consumer demand by changing their pricing strategy and sales remain very low.

Used car sales

On 12 April Austria became the first country to ease lockdown restrictions for the motor industry with smaller dealers being able to open alongside garden centres, DIY stores and small shops. Its typical run rate of 1,300 used car sales per day fell to 300 during the lockdown, but within just seven days has risen to 730 used cars, which is just over half of its original level.

In Germany dealers opened for business on 20 April. During its 2020 peak it saw 16,500 sales per day, falling to 5,500 during lockdown where dealers saw restricted used car trading. Very early signs of life are starting to emerge which follows a similar trend to Austria.

In Denmark dealers have been allowed to trade during lockdown, but many have chosen not to. Easter bank holiday trading is normally strong and there were signs of increased used car demand as consumer confidence improved during that period, with used car sales reaching their highest for four weeks.

In the UK, Spain, France and Italy the majority of dealers remain closed with minimal used car trading.

In The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and Turkey used markets have stabilised to varying degrees. The Netherlands has remained stable with sales at 60-65% of normal levels, with the Easter weekend seeing a spike in sales. Turkey is now being restricted by a series of short-term lockdowns, but its used market is performing better than many others in Europe.

Poland’s initial sharp drop off has stabilised supported by the Government easing market restrictions, while Sweden remains the strongest market during the pandemic performing at 90% of its previous levels, predominantly due to fewer Government restrictions in place.

Used car pricing

Countries who have experienced a more relaxed lockdown to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic continue to see dealers respond more quickly to a fall in consumer confidence by reducing their used car prices. Sweden, which saw the most relaxed Government measures to combat Covid-19 has seen the biggest retail price reduction of 4.0% between 1 February and 19 April to respond to the country’s 20% fall in consumer demand.

Germany has seen a 1.6% reduction in advertised prices and we expect to see this reduction increase once the market opens up. Turkey’s high inflation and used vehicle hyper-inflation, has caused price increases to slow (down by 0.3%), despite a recent bounce back on volumes. This may signify the used car price bubble has burst in Turkey.

In countries like the UK, Italy and France prices remain unchanged (-0.1%, -0.7% and -0.7%) as the majority of dealers are still closed.

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