IF the current success of Derby-based independent dealer Car Quay is anything to go by, car sales appear to be back with a bang.
Talking to Car Dealer Live this week, bosses Jamie Caple and Craig Vladimirovs laid out how things have been for the business since June 1, when showrooms were officially allowed to re-open.
‘It’s ridiculous – and I would business was busy in May as well,’ Caple told us.
‘I think it was Mr Baggott himself who got the exclusive scoop from the government [which said] “you’re okay to deliver cars”… so we thought, “okay, we’ll start delivering cars”‘.
The next step was click and collect, which itself came with some rather alien customer-facing protocol to adhere to.
‘In May, you couldn’t turn up [to the dealership] unless you’d given us money over the phone,’ said Caple. ‘It sounds ridiculous – so counterintuitive for a car dealership not wanting customers to come in, but it was amazing.’
Vladimirovs added: ‘We had people at the gate that we made leave deposits before we let them in.’
As for the days after June 1 – which Caple says was something of a turbulent day for sales – things kicked into overdrive for the dealership.
‘In terms of pure profit margin, by the 18th of this month, we’ve matched our biggest ever month – in 18 days’, said Caple.
Host James Batchelor asked the pair why they thought the month had seen so many customers buying cars in lockdown.
‘It’s something to do, more than anything!’ suggested Vladimirovs.
‘It’s like we’re doing them a favour just by coming to look at a car – they seem realIy grateful!’ said Caple.
The pair pointed to months of pent-up demand being key, too – and many customers having an excess of disposable income after cancelled holidays and months spent shut away indoors.
‘I think people are spending holiday money,’ Vladimirovs told us. ‘They’ve got a few quid in their back pocket, they’ve not been able to do anything to spend it on, they’re thinking “let’s get that car we’ve always talked about.”‘
The pair also discussed the rather surprising selection of cars that have been selling fastest.
‘We thought we’d be selling little hatchbacks, cheap runarounds, that kind of thing,’ said Vladimirovs.
‘We took in a Citroen C1 five door, I think it was £1,000, the day before Boris said lockdown. And I remember listing it, and I thought as soon as we re-open, this car is going to go straight to someone who doesn’t want to get on a bus or train,’ added Caple. ‘We’ve sold it now, but it took us five or six weeks to sell it.’
Instead, it’s been the ‘tastier stuff’ like hot hatches and high-performance cars that have proved to be the quick sellers.
‘We sold an ML63 to a courier – I mean he’s obviously been busy! – from Scotland. He said “I shouldn’t be here, I’m not meant to be out, but you only live once”‘, Caple told us. ‘We’ve sold some heavy stuff – a Macan Turbo, RS5 in bright orange, Golf R, RS4…’
As for issues with finding stock at a reasonable price, the Car Quay boys reckon they’ve got more than a few tricks up their sleeves.
‘Demand is high, so people are paying way into book for cars,’ Vladimirovs explained. ‘But there is stuff out there that you just need to put a bit of effort into getting retail ready – if you’ve got the resources to do that, like us.’
‘There is stock out there, I would say to anyone: just diversify,’ said Caple. ‘So what if you’ve got to paint a door, there’s a mark here and there – you can’t sell fresh air!
‘I think sometimes, there’s too much emphasis on trying to make a used car perfect.’
Vladimirovs added: ‘If it’s got a few scrapes and scratches here and there, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Because to somebody, that’s their dream car, and they’ll buy it.’