Frasers of Falkirk boss David Wishart believes a large amount of pent-up new car buyer demand will be released when customers can test drive again.
Speaking to Car Dealer as part of a special interview, the MD of the SsangYong and MG business said a number of his customers were being put off by not being able to try before they buy.
In a video interview, alongside Ali May-Khalil, boss of Sentience Automotive Solutions, Wishart explains he’s positive about the rest of this year and reveals the firm had an ‘excellent’ 2020.
He said: ‘There is an appetite for new cars for sure.
‘Looking towards March we have a pretty good order bank. We have a long, well established company and have been going the best part of 40 years, so we have a good database, and a very good level of customer retention and repeat business.
‘We have a large number of people, though, who will not do anything without test-driving a car, and understandably so. We have got a lot of people to contact when things reopen and we’re able to do that again.’
Wishart says he’s not ‘overly optimistic’ about March and knows it won’t be as good as last year, but says he’ll ‘have a good run at it’.
He added: ‘We are fortunate with the MG franchise because of the advent of electric. The directives from the government has played into our hands and being an EV dealer is all a bit new to us.
‘This has given people the chance to have a look at what’s in the market. For many people an EV is a strange new purchase – it’s something new and gives them a bit of a change.
‘No one would have thought a year ago that a best part of a year later we would be where we are just now, so I think people are looking for something that will brighten up their day.’
Wishart explains that he has been ‘surprised’ that people still want to buy cars and has seen a steady appetite for people wanting to buy remotely.
He said: ‘I think a lot of people have used click and collect – I think there will be pent up demand but I do not think it will be to the same level as the first lockdown.
‘But there will be a rush of people wanting to look at cars.’
Looking back at last year, Wishart says the Frasers business still managed to perform well, despite the pandemic.
He added: ‘We had an excellent 2020. We were very fortunate with some things we put in play before the pandemic hit, which has paid dividends for us.
‘We have lucked out with the franchise. SsangYong has had a number of issues, but they are a good solid franchise for us. We’ve been with them seven years. We have a loyal base.
‘And MG has some numbers that are flying and we have been with them since 2015 and have a really good relationship with them.
‘They have been very supportive and accessible which has helped.
‘Used cars have been flying and it has all come together for a very good year. Obviously not paying business rates also adds a fair amount to your bottom line too.’
Wishart finished 2020 selling more cars than 2019 at both his sites and is now looking forward to reopening. He said the third lockdown had ‘knocked a bit of wind out of our sales’ but was still hopeful that the reopening will see a rapid return of the good times.