The boss of Mazda UK has spoken out against the rising trend of manufacturers looking to shift the bulk of their sales to online.
He told Car Dealer that a ‘multichannel route’ where customers can ‘flip between’ online and physical remains the way forward over full digital sales.
Although a growing number of manufacturers now have a ‘buy online’ option on their websites – many being spurred on to develop such features during the Covid-19 pandemic – Mazda says it’s reluctant to dive headfirst into end-to-end online sales.
Speaking to Car Dealer, Jeremy Thomson, managing director of Mazda UK, said: ‘For a year now we have been offering customers more flexible engagement, but that’s not the same as online.
‘I think end-to-end digital purchase is still quite limited in automotive, even though many manufacturers may already have that option.
‘Much more important is an integrated, seamless, multi-channel approach where customers can be physical when they want, and digital when they want and can flip between the two.
‘That’s what we want to invest in.’
In October 2020, the Japanese firm launched a new initiative called ‘Mazda Your Way’ that promoted remote engagement for customers to speak to dealers and Thomson added that they would ‘continue to explore and develop online selling options’ on its website.
Asked what he thought about the recent news of Volvo looking to shift all its new electric cars to ‘online only’, Thomson was outspoken about the decision.
He said he was ‘not convinced’ by the commercial viability of some approaches and that he didn’t believe it was it what customers wanted either.
‘I’m not completely convinced that the wheels have changed sufficiently [during the Covid-19 pandemic] for large numbers of people to go all the way through with an end-to-end transaction,’ he said.
‘I think it makes it a great headline, but I don’t think it’s the right commercial decision or the right customer-centric decision.
‘Most customers want this multi-channel experience, a mix of this physical, and that’s where our dealers excel.
‘To be exclusively online, I would want to know that the significant majority of customers are proven to transact end-to-end, but it’s not a route we will be pursuing.’
With Mazda just introducing its first EV – the MX-30 – this month, Thomson was hopeful about the rest of the year to come.
He said: ‘We’re all optimistic, but it’s been a year of such incredible unpredictability that I think most dealers are just looking for some stability.
‘It’s such a shame we don’t have the ability to take advantage of the March boom but I’m confident there will be a long tail for March, so we will have April and May perform much better.
‘But our dealers are excited about having new cars [the MX-30] – new cars are the lifeblood of our business.
‘Coming out of lockdown with an established range isn’t quite as positive a step forward as having a new product to launch.
‘The MX-30 is also additive, not replacing another car, and that widens our range so car dealers are unsurprisingly very excited.’
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