A fifth of car buyers (19.6 per cent) think online sales will overtake those made in a car dealership by 2025.
A third of car buyers think online car sales will never catch on, though, in the poll of 1,671 consumers carried out exclusively for Car Dealer.
The What Car? data shows that nearly a fifth of car buyers (18.7 per cent) think online sales are already more popular than physical sales, while 19.6 per cent think online will overtake in-dealer sales within three years.
Some 62.6 per cent of car buyers think that within a decade all car sales will take place online without the need to visit a showroom.
Jim Holder, Haymarket Automotive’s editorial director, said the survey highlights two ‘diverging points’ – one that shows a significant number of buyers think they’ll never buy online and a second that shows buyers either are now or will in the near future.
‘The first point is a clear indication of the value that car buyers put in visiting a physical premises and experiencing a potential purchase in a physical form,’ said Holder.
‘Given the scale of the financial and emotional investment that most people put into a car that’s no surprise, although it is interesting to note that a majority of people can envisage a timeline when visiting a dealership may no longer be the preferred route to buying.’
Holder said the second point highlights how the online journey is becoming ‘increasingly important’ for car buyers.
He added: ‘The past year has massively accelerated that transition again, not only adding volume and depth to online research, but also moving it into new areas of the car-buying funnel.
‘In December, a survey of 4,790 in-market buyers revealed 28 per cent said they would be comfortable buying their next car entirely online – a number that has been more than borne out during recent lockdowns.
‘The conclusion must be that there remains opportunity on both sides – albeit growing rapidly in the online space, and diminishing, albeit plateauing at a still high level, for physical premises.
‘The need for an omni-channel approach, albeit with shifting priorities is clear.’
Some 56 per cent of those polled by What Car? for the Car Dealer data said they would be more inclined to buy a new car online. Nearly new cars were next with nearly 25 per cent, and used cars came in at just over 19 per cent.
Holder added: ‘It’s interesting that confidence in buying online diminishes with the age of the vehicle.
‘While this seems logical, as you should know what you are getting from a newer car, it does stand against the recent trends reported in lockdown by some retailers, as well as the valuations for online-led used car retailers.
‘As such, there appears to be a gap between expectation and reality, or predicted actions versus actual ones. The mixed messages around pure online retail continue to stand out for customers as much as retailers.’
What Car? released figures this week that suggested 95 per cent of buyers were happy to visit a car dealership when lockdown is lifted.
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