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Vehicle sales accelerate after lockdown

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Bermuda residents stepping out of the gloom of last year’s Covid-19 lockdown appear to have been keen to put some enjoyment back in their lives in the form of a new vehicle.

Amy Greenslade, vice-president and sales manager at Rayclan Ltd, said: “After lockdown, once everyone came back, car sales were booming all the way through the summer to November.

“We have seen a decline in December and January, but November was a huge month for us.”

Ms Greenslade said sales of Rayclan’s B-class vehicle, the Chevrolet Spark, “have been doing phenomenally well”.

She said: “After lockdown, as vehicles were coming in, they were going right back out.”

Ms Greenslade added that Rayclan has reintroduced the Proton brand of cars to the island. The D-class Iriz is a four-door hatchback.

The upsurge in vehicle sales in the second half of 2020 is reflected in records compiled by the Transport Control Department that show that just eight vehicles were registered last year in April, while 76 were registered in May and 83 were registered in June.

Those figures jumped to 139, 156, 129, 151, 112 and 139 in the months of July through December.

Overall, some 1,306 vehicles were registered by TCD in 2020, a drop from the 1,353 registered in 2019.

Ms Greenslade said the upsurge that began in July can perhaps be attributed to the money saved by residents not travelling – or even being reluctant to eat in restaurants – due to the coronavirus.

She added: “People had a bit of extra money and it was something you could do locally. You didn’t go to Disney World, but you did something.”

Harry Andrews, sales and operations manager at Auto Solutions, said: “It’s going well, it’s a steady business at the moment which is good in the climate that we’re in. We have seen a slight increase and it’s starting to normalise again.”

Auto Solutions sells Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Suzuki cars as well as the UD brand of trucks.

Mr Andrews said pent-up demand that built up during the Covid-19 lockdown is in part responsible for an increase in sales later in the year, as is the straightforward desire to replace older vehicles with newer models, and people wanting a “fresh start” due to the emotional impact of Covid.

But he also pointed to the introduction of the Work from Bermuda one-year residential certificate last August that allows “digital nomads” to work or study on the island as giving a boost to sales.

Mr Andrews said: “It’s not a massive impact, but it’s three or four vehicles a month from the digital nomad dynamic. Over the last three or four months we have seen that have a bit more of an impact. It’s not massive, but every sale helps.”

He added that some sales in the second half of 2020 were the result of delays of one to three months in the shipment of vehicles from the manufacturer due to production slowdowns caused by a lack of component parts.

Mr Andrews predicted: “We will see delays for the next six to eight months.”

Such delays, caused in part by Covid-19 and in part by a change in factory ownership, had a dramatic impact on the availability of the ECO brand of Chinese electric vehicles imported by entrepreneur Richard Simon.

Mr Simon delivered his last-in-stock ECO EV1 in August, and had four sales lined up for the arrival of the next shipment of vehicles – but has been waiting for cars ever since.

He said 10 cars are due to leave port on March 1, with an expected arrival date in Bermuda at the end of April.

Mr Simon said: “Interest in the vehicles is really high, the cars have done well. They just had their one-year rust-proofing inspection and did well, which you can’t say for all cars here.”

The upsurge in sales volume has been partly responsible for improving retail sales figures in August through October, the latest month for which details compiled by the Department of Statistics are available.

In those months, motor vehicle store sales volume was up by 43.6, 35.8 and 21.2 per cent, respectively, figures that include both four-wheel vehicles and motorcycles.

But Richard Davidge, who owns Renault dealer Euro Car as well as Prestige Autos, which carries the Mercedes and Jeep brands, said sales volume increases year-over-year can be “deceptive because of what the previous year was like”.

Speaking only of cars, he said 79 were sold in Bermuda in September 2019 while 124 were sold a month later.

He said increases in island-wide sales volume in September and October last year were “because September and October 2019 weren’t great months. September 2020 was better only because September 2019 was so bad”.

Mr Davidge said the market has changed dramatically from 15 years ago, when up to 200 cars a month were sold on the island.

He added: “The luxury car market is in huge decline.”

Summer sales boom: Amy Greenslade, vice-president and sales manager at Rayclan Chevrolet (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Harry Andrews: sales and operations manager at Auto Solutions (File photograph)
Richard Simon: delays have impacted the availability of the ECO EV1 (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 18, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2021 at 10:57 am)

Vehicle sales accelerate after lockdown

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