The Top 100 Magazines: Motoring Magazines

The circulation plummet from Dennis Publishing's Test Drive accounts for almost half of the overall circulation drop for the motoring market.

The magazine, which launched in September 2004, registered a first ABC of just under 110,000 copies, but dropped by more than 50,000 this time around. The 52.9 per cent year-on-year fall makes it easily the sector's biggest loser.

James Burnay, the publisher of Dennis' car titles, attributes this to the amount of marketing put behind the magazine at its launch. "We were on TV all the time, which has a big effect on sales once it stops. We also got rid of 17,000 bulk copies this time around."

Despite Dennis' plans for the title, it is showing few signs that it will make any sort of recovery. It remains miles behind the category's leading title, BBC Magazines' BBC Top Gear.

The BBC title has cemented its place at the top of the table following its colossal effort to overtake Max Power in last period's results.

It now sells just over 175,000 copies. This puts it 50,000 ahead of its closest rival, Haymarket Publishing's What Car?, which sells 122,532 copies a month.

"We've got some good momentum behind the brand at the moment and put out six really good issues in this period," Adam Waddell, the publisher of BBC Top Gear, says.

Emap's former market-leader Max Power, which at one time sold almost 300,000 copies, is struggling this year.

Its circulation of 118,660, a 37.9 per cent drop year on year, is a blow for the title, which was hoping its huge decline in the January-June ABCs was just a hangover from an ill-advised redesign. This unsuccessfully attempted to shift the emphasis of the magazine away from its core audience and towards the realms of the men's magazines.

Steve Prentice, the publishing director of Max Power, says: "Young blokes' relationships with their cars have changed now. They're less interested in modding cars because already-kitted-out vehicles are becoming much less expensive."

He also points out that since the nation started mocking the chav, whose vehicle of choice is generally perceived to be a souped-up Vauxhall Nova, modding has become less cool.

The other performance magazines, Future's Redline and Fast Car, also saw their figures drop by 16 per cent and 18.3 per cent respectively year on year. Dennis' Evo did not suffer the same fate, posting its highest-ever ABC figure, just over 73,000.

In the weeklies sector, Dennis' Auto Express posted a period-on-period drop of 0.8 per cent to 90,266 copies. This leaves it with a lead of almost 28,000 copies over its nearest rival, Haymarket's AutoCar.

The classics sector remained relatively stable, with the market-leader, Classic & Sports Car, posting a year-on year fall of 4 per cent and Practical Classics & Car Restorer seeing a circulation dip of 3.1 per cent over the same period.

Total car magazine circulations dropped by more than 100,000 copies.

One senior publisher, who didn't want to be named, explains: "There is a lack of innovation or editorial quality in the market, leading to a lack of consumer trust, resulting in slower sales."

Verdict Some of the existing titles may do well to think about refreshing their offering, but would be crazy not to heed the mistakes made by Max Power.

Prentice says:"All the magazines need stability at the moment. There is a lot of turmoil in the market and Max Power is at the front of that. It's not a good thing for us to say that we'll get back to selling the numbers we used to. I think gentle growth for anybody next time round would be a good result."

MOTORING TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on Year-on -period -year % change % change BBC Top Gear BBC Magazines 175,218 5.1 5.9 What Car? Haymarket 122,532 -2.9 -10.4 Max Power Emap 118,660 -23.2 -37.9 Fast Car Future 95,893 -7.1 -18.3 Car Emap 94,033 -1.6 -8.9 Auto Express Dennis 90,266 -0.8 -3.2 Classic & Sports Car Haymarket 77,888 -3.3 -4.0 Evo Dennis 73,391 1.0 1.3 Practical Classics & Car Restorer Emap 63,105 0.6 -3.1 Autocar Haymarket 62,577 -5.5 -6.1 Redline Future 62,034 -16.0 -16.0 Test Drive Dennis 51,780 -22.9 -52.9 Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2005.

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