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mean pent up demand is returning to the new car market? If this is the case, we see a geared recovery on plc profitability especially with driving cost efficien­cies being the primary focus in recent years. In terms of the used car market, we see a shortage of new cars during the last few years, which should ensure margins remain robust for those dealers that have the correct stock. The used car market is also about three times larger than the new car market in volume terms. Therefore the oppor­tunities for growth are greater and we can see why this has become strategically more important for dealers in recent years. However, volume can sometimes come at the expense of price, which is why we analyse gross profit per unit trends closely.Using history as a guide, a sustained recovery in new and used car demand has only occurred when UK GDP growth was was at plus 2%. Official consensus UK GDP forecasts are closer to the 0.5% mark for 2012 rising to 1.7% in 2013, albeit the range of forecasts remains very wide. Despite the encouraging start to date, we believe the outlook will remain uncertain with much work to be done before we can safely say the industry has turned the corner and looking to shift up a couple of gears.AM PROMOTIONI think it's fair to say that one of the main concerns and biggest challenges that dealers face at the moment is a lack of consumer confidence. Upgrading a vehicle is still regarded by many as a discretionary purchase. Although this, combined with the latest unemploy­ment figures and lowered disposable income are all still a major concern for consumers, there is a wide range of techniques that can be used by the dealer to encourage the customer to buy from their dealership, one of which is point-of-sale finance. Despite consumer reservations, the latest motor finance penetration stats from the FLA show an increase in PoS finance, illustrating that it is probably still one of the most opportune ways for a dealer to encourage consumers to purchase a vehicle, at a time where disposable income for many is still less.For those people who are in a favourable financial position and in secure employment the continued low interest rates mean that the purchase of a car on finance has never been easier, which we are seeing evidence of with our lowest ever levels of bad debt. Although fuel prices will probably be a major concern for many following last month's Budget announcements, the fact that plans have been set in motion to reduce tax for lower earners plus a larger than expected cut in corporation tax over the next three years means that eventually we may see the light at the end of the tunnel. The fact of the matter is that borrowing money is still cheaper to do now that it has been historically and although on the whole, banks are still reluctant to lend, PoS finance companies like Close Motor Finance still have a lending appetite, allowing dealers to continue to offer flexible and affordable finance options to their customers for the benefit of all parties. INDEXWATCHBy James Broadhead, Close Motor Finance60DecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarch90120DieselSuper unleadedUnleadedLPGPence per litre1500302008200920102011Nationwide Consumer Confidence IndexPresent Situation IndexExpectations IndexSpending index20126090120150Index valueSource: TNS-RI research for NationwideNationwide Consumer Confidence IndexThe high cost of fuel is a concern for many motorists, but this can play into the hands of some franchised dealers able to offer more efficient new cars for similar monthly payments to customers' current vehicles.Fuel price movementsConsumer confidence indexResearch by Nationwide indicates that consumer confidence has suffered a double-dip as initial optimism of early economic recovery proved unfounded. Nevertheless, the past few months have seen a small uplift in expectationsIn association with

News Commercial Vehicle ShowBy Tom Seymour Ford is addressing the skills gap in its commer-cial vehicle network with one-on-one skill needs assessments as many of its experienced sales executives approach retirement age.Steve Clary, Ford CV director, has also responded to concerns that dealers will lose out on valuable servicing work with the new Transit, which has set service intervals at two years/30,000 miles.He said: "Most of my experienced sales people in the network are looking at retirement age so we're facing 350 one-on-one skills assessments which will work out the training needs of dealer-ships where we will lose senior employees."We're acting now so we're not in a position three years down the line where we're left without experience commercial vehicle sales people."Ford addresses problem Ford acts now to avoid skills shortage as many sales executives approach retirement ageFord is lowering the cost of its dealer training by making more of it available online. Clary believes an increase in e-learning will reduce the cost and time out of the business.Training will also focus on improving finance training to give customers and businesses strug-gling to get credit access to funding.Isuzu has high hopes D-Max Isuzu is looking to lead the pick-up market before the end of 2015 with its new D-Max model which will go on sale in June.The Japanese brand, imported by IM Group, is currently fourth in the segment with an 11% share, but believes a push in model quality and a competitive price will help it to win sales from Nissan and Mitsubishi.William Brown, Isuzu UK general manager, told AM: "The network has been getting into a position where it's ready to handle the intro-duction of the new D-Max."It's a utility vehicle but we've moved it into a Vauxhall to push Combo salesVauxhall will not replace its Astra Van but will push customers towards its new Combo instead. Duncan Aldred, Vauxhall UK chairman and managing director, said the Combo offered a lot more to customers.New Ford Transit