Car Dealer Live

Car Dealer Live: Data shows there are buyers out there and they want new cars via click and collect, say What Car? team

Time 7:36 am, January 13, 2021

There are still new car buyers out there who want to do deals via click and collect during lockdown 3.0 and online buying acceptance is increasing.

That’s the positive message from What Car? executives who have surveyed consumers to find out what buying intention is like in the third lockdown.

The results of the poll – discussed in a special Car Dealer Live which you can watch above – show that buying intent is far higher in the third lockdown than it was in the first.

Some 54 per cent of car buyers, out of a near-3,000 surveyed, said they were not looking to postpone their purchase until after restrictions had lifted.

During the first lockdown that figure was down to 11 per cent.

While 42.9 per cent are now comfortable buying a car online – up from 35.2 per cent in October – as consumers grow to accept it as a new way of purchasing.

What Car? reports that web traffic to its site is also up since Christmas with figures bouncing 7.5 per cent year on year as car buyers continue to research their next vehicle.

In the Car Dealer Live, Haymarket Automotive MD Rachael Prasher and editorial director Jim Holder also discuss:

  • What will make car buyers do a deal online
  • Explain why they are confident a post-lockdown bounce is coming
  • And give their opinion on whether they feel it’s right for dealers to be selling cars now

Prasher believes there will be a significant post lockdown bounce as many car buyers will want to cheer themselves up with a new car purchase.

She said: ‘I am an optimist and I will always lean to the positive, but unless we see a really extended lockdown into the second quarter of this year I can’t believe we will see anything other than a really strong bounce back.

‘I imagine that there will be this big pent up demand coupled with a plate change in a key car buying time of the year, along with all the benefits that have come from saving money.

‘It’s a brutal situation that no one would have wished for, but for a lot of car buyers they have been squirrelling savings away by not going out, or on holiday.

‘As long as this lockdown is not too extended, people will come out of it with savings that they haven’t anticipated to have and there’ll be a reward mentality. It has been really tough and there will be a sense of people wanting to reward themselves.’

Prasher said she believes it is absolutely right that dealers continue to do business now, despite concerns among some that enticing people out to buy a car ‘doesn’t feel right’.

She said: ‘I think it would be a very tough decision to say that the car industry could no longer trade through the pandemic. That would be very tough on the industry and on car buyers with immediate need.

‘Customers are able to buy safely though click and collect. No one knows how long this will go on for so the idea that no one can replace their car in that time frame feels a very difficult call.’

Online sales

During the lockdown, car dealers have once again turned to their websites to keep their businesses alive and What Car? has found customers are far happier to buy this way than they were.

Holder said: ‘Increasingly consumers are happy to buy online. It’s clear from our data that more and more people are willing to buy online and every lockdown this seems to rise exponentially.

‘Manufacturers and retailers have invested heavily in this and they are giving a reassurance for customers that means they are willing to engage in this way.’

What Car? has seen interest in specific car test reports dwindle slightly, but traffic to its guides and Top 10s for certain model groups has increased. Holder believes this points to more people researching earlier in their buying cycle during this lockdown.

Traffic to the website was up five per cent in 2020 on a record year in 2019 which surprised the team, but Holder says this shows the bounce back that came after the first lockdown.

‘The data we are seeing now points to a surge in buying as there are greater numbers than ever researching their vehicles and future purchases,’ said Holder.

What Car? New Car Buying has been helping dealers during the lockdown with increased marketing and support on bills. A radio campaign is just about to go live on the Absolute Radio network too.

‘We put in a free offer, which we are now repeating, which means dealers don’t pay if they’re on a monthly plan if we go into lockdown,’ said Prasher.

‘It felt right to support those dealers with marketing. Last year we did some TV advertising and this time we’ve had an opportunity to use radio.’

Prasher said she thinks there are many reasons for dealers to be cheerful, including the Brexit trade deal that was agreed on Christmas Eve.

She added: ‘If car dealers are able to continue over the next couple of months that will certainly help take the edge off what could be a very painful year, but I do believe that when business is back up and running properly there will be a sharp upturn.

‘We saw it in June last year and I am sure we will see it again.

‘All the data shows that there are an awful lot of people still researching and in the market and waiting for that point to purchase. I would absolutely buy in to pent up demand and reward mentality certainly serving the new car market very well as we come out of this.’

You can watch the full Car Dealer Live interview with Prasher and Holder at the top of this post.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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