Car dealers can expect a rush of car buying customers in dealerships when they are finally allowed to reopen their doors on April 12.
Experts from across the industry have suggested that all the signs point to car buyers holding off until they can physically visit dealerships once again.
The lack of test drives at some dealerships, combined with many customers simply wanting to see the new and used cars before they buy them, is holding some people back.
Research by What Car? released today shows that 59 per cent of 2,359 car buyers surveyed said they were reorganising their buying plans to coincide with dealers reopening.
The survey also showed there is strong pent-up demand that could carry on to ‘at least June’ with 43 per cent looking to buy a new vehicle within three months.
‘Expectations of a huge surge in car-buying when non-essential retail in England reopens have grown again,’ said What Car? managing director Rachael Prasher.
Other industry analysts are pointing to a similar level of pent-up demand.
Head of marketing and research at eBay Motors Group, Dermot Kelleher, said the appeal of getting back into showrooms will be incredibly enticing for customers.
He told Car Dealer: ‘Once showrooms and forecourts are permitted to reopen, we expect buyers to welcome the opportunity to view cars in the metal and test drive them – especially those who have put purchases on hold because they have been prohibited from doing so during the current lockdown.
‘The successful roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccinations and steady declines in the daily new cases will further lift consumer confidence to visit dealerships to choose their next car.’
Kelleher said that a survey of Motors.co.uk users in December revealed 59 per cent would visit a dealership once they reopen. Only 15 per cent said they ‘definitely would not’.
In the used car market, demand is still high and prices are remaining buoyant.
Auto Trader reported today that used car prices were up 6.6 per cent on the same month last year. February was the 11th month of consecutive price growth in the used car market, it said.
What’s more, volumes of buyers on Auto Trader point to growing interest from buyers looking to change their vehicle.
Visitor numbers to Auto Trader are up 32.9 per cent on the same period in 2020 with average daily users topping 1.4m.
Auto Trader says all this points to strong levels of demand when dealers reopen on April 12.
Richard Walker, Auto Trader director of data and insight, said: ‘This sustained level of price growth, coupled with the strong consumer metrics we’re recording on our marketplace, gives us cause for optimism of very strong retail demand once forecourts are able to physically reopen next month.
‘Add to the mix growing economic confidence, as well as the current operating performance of most retailers, we believe there’s good reason for a positive outlook for the weeks ahead.’
Cap HPI’s head of valuation Derren Martin said he also thinks there will be ‘some pent-up demand’ but cautioned he didn’t think it would be ‘to same degree as last June’.
Cazana’s director of insight Rupert Pontin said this increased demand could even lead to a shortage of stock.
He told Car Dealer: ‘I do think there will be a bit of a rush and I think there will be a brief shortage of used car stock too.
‘As a result used car retail prices are going to remain strong for much of, if not all, of 2021.
‘However, it will be nothing like after Lockdown One. More like the period after Lockdown Two which was enhanced activity, and the reason is that the industry has had to evolve so quickly that online sales are now being very effective.’
Pontin added that dealers are running at between ‘60 and 80 per cent of normal volumes’ now which was ‘great news’.
Car buyers can currently only purchase a new or used vehicle online for click and collect as showrooms are closed by government guidelines.
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