Autocar and What Car? editorial director Jim Holder warned that car dealers were ‘missing the moment’ if they don’t put procedures in place to help customers now.
During today’s Car Dealer Live, which you can watch in full above, Holder revealed the publisher has seen a shift in mindsets over the last 10 days.
He revealed he receives calls direct to his mobile from What Car? Helpline readers these days and said this has given him a unique insight into car buyers’ needs during the crisis.
He said: ‘At times it’s inspiring, there are car dealer groups who have been on the front foot throughout and have been able to largely manage to help customers. But there are a lot of manufacturers and retailers who have just shut shop.
‘That’s understandable but I think they need to get their strategies into a new place. I think just looking at our data, and they must have their own data, that in the last 10 days there has been a mindset shift and that’s only going to accelerate.’
Holder explained that some car buyers were complaining of being left on hold on manufacturer hotlines for 30 minutes or not being able to get hold of any retailers.
He added: ‘That’s a customer who was wanting to buy a car that day left on hold. When they’ve told me that they’ve rung around dealers and they can’t get hold of anyone – I think, really?
‘This is an industry that’s going to feel pain and it’s going to complain loudly about feeling that pain. It has to help itself now and there are practical and financial challenges to that but anyone who isn’t putting procedures in place to deal with it are at risk of missing the moment.’
On the panel with Holder was also Autocar editor Mark Tisshaw and Haymarket Automotive managing director Rachael Prasher.
Prasher explained that they were using their extensive data to try and spot ‘green shoots’ in the industry, as well as offering their What Car? New Car Buyer product for free to all customers during this period.
Prasher said: ‘I took the view very early on that we would do everything that could to support our industry, our clients, and also supply our audience with meaningful content and information.
‘One of the first decisions we took was to openly share our data in a way that we perhaps haven’t in the past, for obvious reasons.’
They have an ongoing survey of between 3,000 and 9,000 people running each week, where What Car? measures how responses change. This led to the data released earlier this week suggesting that there will be pent up demand in the market.
The Haymarket team commented on what a tough time this was for car manufacturers, and how earmarked mergers could be in jeopardy while others investors, particularly in the now recovering China, could be looking to swoop in and buy struggling brands at a discount price.
Holder said: ‘We can see them [manufacturers] burning through the cash now. Even more worryingly we can see them taking on debt and loans at borderline toxic rates, 10 per cent plus, in order to see themselves through.
‘We’re confident about the future of some of them and they are viable businesses going forward, but it’s the burden they’re taking on as well as burning through that cash.
‘You mention JLR burning through a billion a month, I’ve read a billion a week for some of the big ones like Volkswagen Group and others. That is unsustainable.’
This could see the end of some niche models and slow the investment in electrification, warned Autocar editor Tisshaw, as manufacturers seek to cut costs.
‘I think if that’s going to happen, and it probably will, it’ll be more to do with electrification and the investments are just massive for that,’ he said.
‘Effectively you’re having to invest in cars for the future, five or 10 years down the line, while also investing in all the cars you need to sell today.
‘Volkswagen has had to invest in a new Golf 8, which will run into the billions, at the same time as an even bigger investment in electrification in the ID range.
‘Something has got to give and that will be the niche models. We don’t really see a lot of coupes, cabriolets, the sort of niche cars. They weren’t really existing anyway and this the sort of final nail in the coffin for them I’d say.’
Coming up next week on Car Dealer Live we also have:
- Monday: Devonshire Motors’ Nathan Tomlinson; Batchelors Motor Group MD Tony Denton
- Tuesday: Romans International’s Tom Jaconelli
- Wednesday: Mike Brewer
- Thursday: Langley Prestige’s Simon Webb
If you have any questions you’d like to ask any of the above you can submit them live during the broadcasts or you can send them to us via this website, or our social media channels including Twitter and LinkedIn.