Recession hits: Car carriers, like the Pacific Highway, docking in Hamilton used to bring in around 100 new cars each month but now that figure has declined to around 50 to 60. *Photo by Marcelo Vieira
Recession hits: Car carriers, like the Pacific Highway, docking in Hamilton used to bring in around 100 new cars each month but now that figure has declined to around 50 to 60. *Photo by Marcelo Vieira

It is a tough time for the car dealerships of Bermuda.

Not only do they have to contend with an increase in the number of people leaving the island and selling off their cars second hand but also the latest sales statistics paint a bleak picture.

In July of this year car dealerships across the island witnessed a staggering 44.7 per cent drop in sales receipts compared to the same month in 2010. That represents a drop of almost half of total sales.

The Retail Sales Index for the month indicated that the number of cars sold fell by 41 per cent while motorcycle sales declined by 17.6 per cent.

There are still new models of Toyota, Peugeot, Ford and Kia being shipped into the island.

But there are less brand new vehicles in the showrooms now than for some considerable time.

Jeff Stirling from Continental Motors, told Cool Wheels that 2011 had been the worst year for the industry for more than a decade.

He said: “For us it is very, very slow.

“A lot of people have been leaving the island and selling their cars at half the price and you cannot compete with that.

“We’ve definitely seen a downturn in the number of sales but there has been an increase in the service department as people try to keep their old cars going rather than buy new ones.

“When the economy turns around I’m sure things will change, but for the moment this is the worse it has been for a long time.”

Richard Davidge, who is president of Eurocar, Executive Autos and Prestige Motors, said the industry was in bad shape.

He said: “As the retail sales index figures suggest it is not good at the moment.

“People are obviously keeping their vehicles longer and people are also leaving the island which does not help us.

“The car sales have slowed down drastically this year.

Decline

“There are definitely less new cars coming to the island at the moment.

“Before, the car carriers that come into Hamilton would bring in more than 100 new cars — now we are looking at just 50 or 60 every month.

“It’s that bad.”

Mr Davidge said that the car industry would be greatly helped if Government could inject some impetus and exemptions.

He added: “It would help if the vehicles could be made a little bit cheaper by reducing the duty that has to be paid on them.

“Likewise, if there were exemptions for certain types of cars then that would also help us.

“I would say that by the end of this year we will probably be down by 55 per cent compared to where we were in 2008.”

Mike Butler, general manager of Bermuda Motors said his firm had been gradually reducing its inventory over the last six to seven months.

He added: “We all know that sales have halved since 2007. It has been a pretty gradual decline since then to where we find ourselves now.

“Most companies are still keeping the same number of employees and unless sales come back to where they were before then companies will have to shrink.

“We certainly have been bringing in fewer new cars because there simply is not the demand.

“Since the beginning of the year we have been slowly but surely reducing our inventory.”