23 Mar 2009

Tough times for car dealers

4:31 pm on 23 March 2009

The car industry is being driven into a ditch as many New Zealand dealers stockpile vehicles rather than sell stock at a loss.

As carmakers in the United States and Europe are on the verge of bankruptcy and pleading for government bailouts, dealers in New Zealand say buyers cannot get credit to purchase cars and the market is saturated with imports.

Last month one of the Wellington region's largest car dealerships, Williams and Adams, went into receivership. The company had been operating for more than 80 years.

In Hamilton, Wholesale Cars Direct managing director Paul Sutherland says his company is "hanging in", but across the industry, times are tough.

Mr Sutherland says many car yards are simply 'dumping' vehicles they have probably paid too much for, because they have to get money in the bank.

Dog and Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says dealers selling new and luxury cars cannot find cashed-up buyers, but do not want to flood the market with discounted vehicles.

"We know of a large motor vehicle dealer that's got a whole floor of its building filled with cars that are unsold or repossessed.

"I think that when the little dealers start going bankrupt there'll be thousands of cars hitting the market at very cheap prices which will simply escalate the cycle of decline."

Mr Matthew-Wilson expects more car dealers to collapse as the market dives.

The head of research at BNZ, Stephen Toplis, says although imports have slowed dramatically in response to weakening sales, there is also anecdotal evidence of car stockpiles increasing

He says many buyers are not keen to borrow to fund a vehicle in uncertain economic times, and some of the non-bank financial institutions that used to support the car industry no longer exist.