How well do car dealers perform in the eyes of consumers when it comes to explaining the range of options?
The ideal man with the answer to that was Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler, when he appeared on Car Dealer Live this week.
Host James Baggott asked Fowler whether, with the plethora of options available on models, dealers were getting better at informing and educating the buying public, ensuring the right vehicle went to the right buyer.
‘If I’m honest there’s work to be done,’ said Fowler.
‘But the way I would phrase it is there’s a great opportunity for dealers. It’s not a great experience.
‘Part of the [Auto Express publisher] Dennis stable is Buyacar, which is an online used car retailer that is doing phenomenally well, and that’s probably because most dealers don’t really understand the selling online space, which is somewhere where people definitely want to go.
‘But if I’m honest, the whole dealer experience hasn’t changed that much. One of the biggest problems in the industry – and I talk about dealerships and OEMs – is that people within this industry do not go and buy cars.
‘They do not know what it’s like as somebody who doesn’t know much about cars to walk in through those doors in a slightly nervous fashion to be faced with this fantastic array of shiny metal and equally shiny-suited sales people who they think it’s their job not necessarily to do them the best deal possible but to do the deal that the sales person wants to do.
‘There’s still an awful lot of suspicion around the sales process. There’s not a lot of enjoyment, and I’m sad to say – I was only talking to somebody yesterday – still a lack of customer service.
‘One person was ready to buy and had been into two dealers but there was no feedback at all, nobody offering quotes, nobody contacting them when they said they would do, and sadly that is all-too-common a story pretty much from most people who have contacted me.
‘They haven’t had the greatest experience, and that’s something that the industry really needs to address, as it’s got a real image problem.’
He added: ‘In the meantime, particularly on the used car side – and it won’t be too long before it follows on the new car side – you’ve got these new online retailers such as Buyacar and Cazoo and Carzam, and you name the fancy array of letters that don’t mean something rude in Swahili.
‘Selling cars online – that is what people want because part of it is they don’t necessarily enjoy the traditional dealership experience, so the dealer group that takes that opportunity, grabs it and provides that level of service and an online service is the one that’s going to do best.’
Watch the interview in full – in which among the other topics Fowler also discusses the withdrawal of brands from Europe and whether he thinks a scrappage scheme is likely – by clicking on the main image.