The end of an era

Around this time of year, I receive a lot of emails forwarded by
friends and colleagues, containing vouchers and codes to help ease
the burden of Christmas spending. Looking through one such list
this year, I was surprised to see a voucher from Arnold Clark,
offering £300 off the price of a new car.

It was more than a little incongruous among the pizza restaurant
deals and online shopping offers, and all the more remarkable as a
result. Is it canny marketing – or a sign of how bad things have
got in motor retail? Our cover story takes a good look at the
current state of affairs for motor finance – and finds reasons to
hope amid the gloom.

The long-awaited Detroit bailout bill is finally here, after a
highly troubled gestation (see p6). It will at least stop GM and
Chrysler from running out of cash before the end of March; what
will happen after that is anyone’s guess. France, too, has taken
the decision to aid its manufacturers – and, more pertinently,
their captive finance arms. Meanwhile there is more worrying news
from the non-prime and sub-prime market: as Blue closes its doors
to new business and BCT “drastically” cuts its motor finance
volume, F&I has never been higher up the news agenda.

This time last year, the CBI predicted slowing growth – but
growth nonetheless. This year, there is a race to the bottom among
economic forecasters as to who can out-doom whom – it can’t be that
bad, surely? As one old industry hand says, 2009’s predicted 1.7m
new car sales still equals 1.7m opportunities to sell finance, and
there will always be a need for business cars; the industry has
been through recession before, and has always come out the other
side. 

Finally, in a traditional good news, bad news scenario, I am
sorry to report that Motor Finance’s esteemed consultant editor,
Brian Rogerson, is leaving the magazine as it reaches its 50th
issue to explore new horizons; very warmest wishes to Brian, who
has been an invaluable help and authority on all things motor . The
good news, though, is that it is highly likely his name will appear
in these pages again soon, sharing the insights he has gained
through his many years of experience in the sector. 

With very warmest wishes for the festive season, and a good
old-fashioned Happy Christmas to you all.

Jo Tacon
jo.tacon@vrlfinancialnews.com