UK: Emigration seen hitting motor trade

By just-auto.com editorial team | 31 August 2006

Although immigration issues are currently a hot topic in the UK, car buyers guide EurotaxGlass's reckons the movement of people away from these shores may ultimately present the bigger challenge to the motor trade.

In a market that is facing a difficult economic climate, the movement of affluent consumers to foreign shores simply adds to the challenge of remaining profitable, it said.

EurotaxGlass's claims that, though it is widely unreported, the market is losing an "appreciable" number of potential buyers to emigration and recent reports suggest the increasing absence of potential consumers could be significant in the years ahead.

"It's a fact that swathes of the population are selling their cars for good and they won't be purchasing another in the UK," it said.

"These people all have cars and the vast majority will dispose of them before they leave, some electing to part-exchange them with left hand drive specialists in the UK before departure," the company's consumer values editor John Glynn said.

"Once gone, these people are unlikely to return to the UK car market at any stage in the future."

EurotaxGlass's said the fact that between 1966 and 1996 the UK lost more people through emigration than it gained through immigration is little known. 4.5 million British passport holders now live overseas, and the latest figures from the Institute of Public Policy Research reveals that 200,000 people left the UK on a long-term basis in 2004. Surveys also indicate that the levels of emigration will continue to rise.

Glynn added: "As increasingly large numbers of well-educated and affluent car buyers leave the country for good, there will undoubtedly be ramifications for the motor trade."

Current attention is focused on immigration, in particular the government's failure to accurately forecast the number of Polish migrants who came to work in the UK after their country gained European Union accession. Unlike some western European countries, the UK imposed no work permit restrictions. There are now calls for curbs on the number of Romanians and Bulgarians allowed to enter from 2007 when their countries join the EU.

EurotaxGlass's claims are countered by newspaper reports this week saying that by 2031, migrants will have added another six million to the British population, which recently passed the 60m mark.