Knowledge: What Car? helping dealers hit the ground running as it extends New Car Buying offer

Time 6:59 am, May 26, 2020

Haymarket Automotive retail sales and services director Kate Hannam explains how What Car?’s New Car Buying system can help dealers – and why it has made it free for longer

New Car Buying brings together What Car?’s approved dealers, all of whom have already agreed to sell at What Car?’s Target Price – the guaranteed maximum that a customer will pay if the vehicle is bought via one of its approved dealers using the service.

The price – based on cash and finance deals – is reached via a team of mystery shoppers who haggle each day with dealers, and the dealers will often better it.

How busy is the What Car? website?

We’re getting – in a good time – over two million people coming to the site every single month. As you know, it’s a very well-established website, so we have lots and lots of car buyers.

Where we saw traffic dropping off slightly for What Car? over the recent few months we are seeing those picking up now with inquiries in New Car Buying increasing all the time, and we are seeing transactions taking place within the portal now, with deposits being discussed and collections being arranged, which is fantastic!

What Car? has prided itself over the years with testing cars very thoroughly. Has that helped drive traffic to the website and eventually drive that traffic to the dealers as well?

Yes, exactly. We get a lot of traffic from the website, and now we’ve got loads of different traffic drivers throughout all the reviews and things to take people through to What Car? New Car Buying.

Before, historically, we had a website you could come and research and learn about your new car, which was fantastic, but we could never connect them with the dealer, and that’s where the idea was born of What Car? New Car Buying. We want to connect consumers with their local dealers.

You’ve announced another extension to this free offer – tell us why it was put in place to begin with and why you’ve decided to extend it for retailers.

Like everyone, our business has been hit really hard by coronavirus, and like everyone we want to return to the revenue streams that we were enjoying previously, but before we can do that, we know the industry has to get back on its feet again and we have to start selling cars, so in March it was a unanimous decision to switch this to free.

We knew that we would still have car buyers coming to the website and that they would want to benefit from the good experience they would get from What Car?, so we needed dealers in order to do that.

We also knew that some dealers would remain open and we wanted them to benefit from those leads during these trying times, so as we said, increasingly now we are seeing more car buyers coming to the site and we’re hopeful that dealers will open on June 1, but we also appreciate that costs are going to be under scrutiny quite substantially and we want to stand by our partners and then we can enjoy success again.

How does this new offer work?

Those 780 dealers that we have live currently don’t need to do anything, just keep enjoying the platform and using it and we will not charge you for that. If you’re new, get in touch, we will talk you through the platform, we’ll get you set up, and we can get you enjoying leads quite quickly after that date.

There really is absolutely no commitment to this offer until the end of September. We hope that you will see incremental sales and decide to stay with us, but if you don’t want to then you can walk away at the end of September with no issues there at all, so think of it as a try before you buy!

How does New Car Buying work?

What Car? is where people go if they want to research a new car, and like I said before, historically, you couldn’t connect with a dealer – you’d have to leave our site to go and find out how you could purchase that car. Now we drive all that audience of car buyers through to New Car Buying.

They give us very minimal data capture – name, postcode, email address. We send that through to the eight most local dealers that we have using the platform and we leave it up to the customer to communicate with the dealers.

So, who’s been using the system at the moment?
We’ve got lots of dealers on board, including Vertu, Marshall, JCT600, Snows, Swansway plus lots of smaller groups and single sites as well – it works for everybody.

And the beauty of our product is at the end of each month the dealers that are with us send us through their sales data so we can match that against the inquiries that we have provided on their behalf, just so that we can show value and show how much incremental business we are bringing to their sales.

There are going to be a lot of dealers out there at the moment who have got staff on furlough – how can they use this with their existing staff to make their business successful?

The beauty of our product is we have this auto response feature, so dealers can preload their prices and those are sent out automatically on behalf of the dealer.

About 98 per cent of the dealers we have with us are using that feature at the moment, so think of it as a silent partner who’s working behind the scenes for you, pumping out your prices, also your contact details and your dealership name, for example, and doing that only when a consumer decides to respond within the platform.

And not all do – some will go direct to the dealership, they’ll print out the quote and turn up, they might phone you, but some will also use our platform, and the sales managers or operators will receive an email notification that they’ve got a response waiting for them and they just need to click on that link and respond to the consumer quickly.

Dealers are really going to have to hit the ground running when they restart, aren’t they?

Yes, they are, exactly. We know we’ve got an audience of highly informed ready-to-buy customers. The research that we did of those ready-to-buy customers [showed that] one-third of them are looking to make their purchase in the next four weeks, so it’s going to be a case of getting ready and closing those deals as quickly as they can.

We are seeing sales being done during lockdown, arranging collection for those as well, but as is the key with our platform and all these digital products it’s about being quick to respond as well. Those dealers that were selling the most cars pre-coronavirus were the ones that were responding quickly and getting back to the customer with an informed answer.

The whole idea behind this trial is to offer the industry some help when it needs it most, but at the end of this you’re obviously going to have a conversation with these guys and hopefully they’re going to say ‘Well, that worked brilliantly for me, let’s carry on in the future.’

Exactly. That’s what we would like. We’ve got an audience of car buyers that want to buy cars. We want to help them do that and come to What Car? to be able to complete that journey from research through to purchase.

You’re right, we want to prove to the industry that yes we have that audience of car buyers, yes we can help you sell cars, please consider us and sign up when you can.

For more information about What Car? New Car Buying, call 020 8267 4138, email [email protected] or visit

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John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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