Auto Trader recorded 7.4m advert views of new cars in January – a 69 per cent rise on 2020 and the highest number for a single month.
The record-breaking figure equalled nearly 10,000 views EVERY HOUR during the month, despite the UK-wide restrictions.
January also saw a big upswing in individual users looking at a new car on Auto Trader – up by 14 per cent year on year and nearly a fifth (19 per cent) on December.
That led to almost twice as many new car leads sent to retailers during January – up by 98 per cent.
The positive news has continued into and even speeded up into February.
The week of February 1 to 7 saw the highest number of new car advert views in a week – up by nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) year on year and the highest number of new car leads sent to retailers (up 116 per cent year on year).
With a typical research lead time of two-three months, the data offers a positive indicator of the levels of new car consumer demand in the market ahead of the 21-registration plate change in March.
Auto Trader said that while a question mark still hung over whether forecourts could reopen next month, it showed the possibilities of new car sales via online retailing such as click-and-collect and home delivery.
Commercial director Ian Plummer said: ‘Although we hope dealerships will reopen soon, retailers need to plan for every eventuality and, unfortunately, the possibility their doors will have to remain closed during some or all of the key month of March.
‘From what we can see from our data, there is cause for optimism.
‘There’s a growing level of new car demand, and the broader economic consumer confidence levels, which is typically the key driver of the new car market, remains relatively strong.
‘In fact, our latest research shows that consumers are currently more confident in being able to afford their next car than they were pre-pandemic.’
He added: ‘There’s clearly an appetite from consumers to be able to do more of the car-buying journey online.
Return to health
‘But for those not currently prepared to complete their journey online, although often comfortable to narrow down their final choice and even fully stacking a deal with help from their local retailer, we’re confident they’ll quickly convert to purchase once they’re able to physically see the car and drive it.
‘The strong signs of pent-up demand we’re tracking on our marketplace should therefore help the new car market return to health as soon as retailers can reopen their showrooms.’
The top 10 most popular new cars in January, based on the number of advert views, entirely comprised premium brands, with the Volkswagen Golf, pictured, comfortably taking the top spot at 303,183.
That was twice as many views as the BMW 1 Series, which was in second place with 130,574.
Third was Range Rover (123,580), then the BMW 3 Series (120,890) and Mercedes-Benz E Class (119,679).
Sixth was the Range Rover Sport (118,524), followed by the Defender 110 (116,507), BMW 4 Series (109,164), BMW 5 Series (102,914) and finally the Audi A3 (102,809).
The most popular EV by advert view was Audi’s high-performance the e-tron S at 38,901. Next were the MG MG5 (28,360), Volkswagen ID.3 (28,083), Audi E-Tron (26,544) and Ford Mustang MACH-E (25,477).
They were followed by the Jaguar I-PACE (23,555), MG MG ZS (22,937), Kia Niro (16,159), Mazda MX-30 (15,942) and Nissan Leaf (13,169).