Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For Us Dinosaurs, the Great Car Boom Has Been a Crash Waiting to Happen

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

For Us Dinosaurs, the Great Car Boom Has Been a Crash Waiting to Happen

Article excerpt

Byline: comment Simon English

FOR some years now, Trevor Finn at Pendragon has been amusing himself -- and me, in fairness -- with abuse of my idiotic approach to car ownership. I'm a dinosaur, he says, a financial ignoramus. He might have a point, but then again I haven't just issued a profit warning which saw my shares crash 20%, so perhaps we can call it quits.

As boss of Britain's biggest car dealer, Finn wants people to take a punt on a new motor, not to persist with the old jalopy. My foolish car deal is this: every three or four years, I trade in my old BMW for a new (old) BMW. I hand over the old old BMW and several thousand pounds in cash. Then I drive away the new (old) BMW.

This leaves me with: some new (old) wheels. And zero obligation to the seller. Finn thinks I should see a car like a mobile phone, as something you never own, that you rent by the month in permanent hock to Apple or Samsung. He quotes J.Paul Getty approvingly: "If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it."

It is only, he says, my northern pennypinching background that leaves me unable to grasp this wisdom.

Yesterday, Pendragon said profits would be PS15 million lower than previously promised and warned of a glut of supply. Too many car-makers are trying to flog too much kit to consumers who are suddenly nervous. Those cars of Finn's are now depreciating even before they've arrived on his forecourts. Too many new cars for sale means old cars for sale are suddenly cheaper too -- this idiot market is heading my way.

What happens if a new generation of folk decide they can manage without a car? Finn mocks the idea. "In central London, no one needs a car," he concedes. "By the time you get to Hull, the centre of the universe, everyone needs a car." That's going to be less and less true over time, probably, which does make you worry for our giant car manufacturing sector (and to shed a tear for dealers like Pendragon).

Finn says that car ownership in the UK has grown every year since the war. But that growth will stop at some point, how about right now? Some numbers not in Pendragon's statement are these: UK car dealerships have PS27. …

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