The north-west of England is unlikely to benefit as much from used car buyers swapping public transport for used cars as much as other areas, believes a Chorley Group director.
Adam Turner, sales and marketing director of Chorley Group, which operates six dealerships and four franchises across Lancashire and Greater Manchester, made the prediction when he appeared on Car Dealer Live today (June 3).
In a wide-ranging interview, he discussed demand for vehicles with host James Batchelor and highlighted those who didn’t necessarily have a second car but now wanted one to avoid using public transport.
‘The north-west probably won’t benefit quite as much as some areas. Obviously if you’re a London-based dealer I’d be rubbing my hands right now because no-one is going to want to get the Tube and everyone is going to want an electric vehicle, so I think they’re going to have a really good time.’
As far as new car buying was concerned, it was a case of ‘so far so good’ two days into the official full reopening, with sales at 115 per cent and inquiries at 150-160 per cent of last year.
Acknowledging that there was pent-up demand, Turner said they were hoping it could be sustained and that they didn’t see it peter off any time soon.
Referring to himself as ‘a consistent optimist’, he added that he didn’t think the pent-up demand would last but that they would return to some kind of normality relatively quickly, despite the inevitability of a recession and supply challenges caused by manufacturers halting production.
He said: ‘It’s going to be challenging, there’s no doubt about it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to work with what tools you’ve got at your disposal, haven’t you?
‘And there is still stock out there, it’s just not necessarily the stock that you always want to choose, so we’ve just got to try and box clever really.’
When it came to used cars, he thought there would be a shortage of good-quality vehicles in specific price brackets, citing sub-£15,000s and sub-£12,000s in particular, as the market was moving really quickly.
He said: ‘Good quality, lower end of the price bracket in used cars are going to become in short supply, definitely.’
Customers had been relaxed about going into the showroom so far, adding that Chorley Group had acted quickly to bring in full sanitisation systems and markings, as aftersales departments had previously opened for click-and-collect.
Turner said: ‘We just communicated to the team and communicated to our clients that we’ve got all this for you, we are going the extra mile, and we are making sure that we can take every precaution that we can.’
In fact, some customers had been too relaxed, he said, just wandering in and having to be reminded to go back out and encouraged to use hand sanitisers.
Face masks were also available as an option, but it was a challenge to get customers to wear them all the time – and it tended to be people who were more in the at-risk categories that didn’t want to wear the masks or use the sanitisers.
‘So we have to go above and beyond to try to protect them, but overall they’ve been pretty relaxed,’ he said.
Batchelor suggested that the dealers who will remain successful when the pent-up demand ends will be those who stayed in touch with customers throughout the pandemic, keeping communication lines open, and Turner agreed, saying: ‘We’ve had really good success from that. Our communication with our local communities is always really important to us, and right at the beginning we communicated to the customers that we’d decided to close before the enforced lockdown came in.
‘We then communicated videos to the public to say that we were going to pay suppliers early and that we’ve got a lot of one-man bands who needed that money, who relied on it, communicating with customers throughout.
‘So we communicated the closedown message with them, we communicated an aftersales reopening message with them, and then we communicated the good news that we were going to be back open on Monday.’
Consequently, its appointment book for the next couple of weeks is looking really strong.
Turning to the topic of finance agreements, Turner acknowledged that if people were coming to the end of one and were out of a job then it would be more challenging to start a new agreement.
However, countering that, there were also people who now had more disposable income because they hadn’t been out socialising or on holiday, for example.
‘I think for every one you lose you probably gain one,’ he said.
Will the industry be feeling the shockwaves of the pandemic for a long time or will it get back up to speed quickly in the latter half of the year, Batchelor asked.
‘I might be being naive but I genuinely don’t believe we’ll be seeing the shockwave from this for a long time. There are lasting impacts, there have been lots of lives lost, people have lost their jobs, it’s absolutely traumatic, but there are lots of people coming out of this situation in a more positive position.
‘There are lots of businesses who had to adapt, lots of businesses that are coming out of this leaner, coming out of it stronger, which is what recessions do ultimately, but I don’t think we’ll be sitting here in 12 months’ time reeling from the effects of coronavirus.
‘I do think the pause button was hit massively in the industry, which is great – used car values remained relatively stable, people weren’t tinkering too much, and if the job can just restart again as to where it was, then my personal opinion is I don’t see any massive lasting impact. But I’ve been wrong before and I could be wrong again.’
See the broadcast in full by clicking on the image at the top of this story.
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