Vertu Motors boss Robert Forrester has revealed that the dealership group sold 3,200 cars last week – a one-fifth increase in used cars on the same period in 2019.
Speaking today (Jun 15) on the Radio 4 consumer programme You and Yours, he told presenter Winifred Robinson about the sales trends, saying: ‘We’ve seen robust demand for all kinds of used cars and increasing demand for new cars, but we’ve definitely seen a shift in mix to cars less than £9,000 for which I think there is a variety of reasons.’
The group has more than 120 dealerships in England and 13 in Scotland, and Forrester said: ‘Last week we sold 3,200 retail cars in total across all our dealerships, and that included Scotland being closed, and on used cars that’s about 20 per cent more than last year.’
Asked why there had been such an increase, he replied: ‘I think there’s a variety of reasons. Certainly, some people are seeking to get a cheaper form of transport that’s safe and to come off public transport, we’ve definitely seen that, and they haven’t got a car to part-exchange, so we know pretty well that that is definitely a trend.
‘I think people actually aren’t going to have a holiday, or certainly not one overseas. They’ve got money to spend, and I think they go and try and buy a car, new or used, with which to go on holiday in the UK. For example, we were overstocked in Volkswagen camper vans coming into the lockdown and we’ve sold them all.’
Robinson wanted to know if he’d be able to keep all Vertu’s showrooms open and retain all staff, as he planned for the near- and long-term future, to which Forrester said: ‘I certainly think we’ll keep all our showrooms open. We’ve got a robust business. We’ve been around for over 100 years with our Bristol Street Motors brand.
‘I think at the moment, the pent-up demand, the degree of freedom being let out of your house for the first time in many weeks is moving people into the showroom. I think until we see something otherwise we’ve just got to try and maximise the opportunity and make sure the customers get what they need.’
Turning to the topic of click-and-collect, he said: ‘We sold 2,000 cars in the two months after the initial lockdown. So we were taking orders over the phone, no one was allowed in the showrooms, we were doing a lot of internet business, a lot of business over the phone, [we] couldn’t do test drives. But to put that into context, we sold 2,600 cars the week we opened the showrooms, so yes, the business was there, but it was sort of 10 per cent of normal levels I think.’
But although the internet route was proving popular, people still wanted to visit showrooms, he said.
‘People are looking on the internet, online, even buying online. Our pure online retailing sales have significantly gone up but still remain at quite low levels, so I think people still want to come to a dealership very safely, take a test drive – we have unaccompanied test drives now which is a novelty – and I still think they will actually want to see the car in the vast majority of cases.’
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