Chairman of SsangYong UK Jim Tyrrell said he was ‘famously sceptical’ of online car retailing but told Car Dealer that he now believes a hybrid process is likely to become the norm.
On Car Dealer Live yesterday (May 21) he said: ‘I think there will be some sort of hybrid approach to internet retailing but I still think dealers are a vital link in this equation and I don’t see, certainly for us, any potential that we will move away from the traditional route of dealers selling the cars.’
SsangYong UK is currently working on a platform that will allow its retailers to sell online more easily, but Tyrrell added that the fact the brand isn’t well known means dealers are still crucial to the process.
Managing director of the brand in the UK Nick Laird agreed that he didn’t believe in the long run this would be the main way consumers buy cars.
‘I think there’s a full range of solutions out there and I do expect them to accelerate but I don’t expect them to become the dominant part of the market,’ he said.
‘We’re working with our dealer body to try and find a low-cost, pragmatic way for them to be able to sell online. We still think there’s a load of added value that dealers can provide and confidence that they can provide to customers during the process.’
He added that while a ‘part-online, part-offline process’ would be more likely and that the role and skills of a car salesman were still required, saying that they believe ‘good salesmanship, good relationship building and good qualification are skills that will endure’.
Discussing the market post-lockdown, Tyrrell was positive that new car buyers would still be interested in new cars.
He explained: ‘We’re expecting the typical new car buyers are going to be still interested in buying new cars when this all comes to an end.
‘Many of them are on two- or three-year cycles and need to replace their car or at least have a conversation with their dealer, whatever it is.’
He added: ‘I think we’ll see a fairly quick return to near-normality. Then, what I’m fairly concerned about is towards the end of the year, and businesses start looking at their cost base and where they had 100 people they’ve realised they can cope with 90, we’ll then see unemployment come in and that could have an impact on the overall size of the economy and then the overall size of the car industry during the next year.
‘I think we will see a bit of a bounce and then it’ll slightly tail off.’
Laird commented that as the economy weakens, the community around dealers will play a vital role.
He said: ‘There’s no doubt there will be a recession. At that point, things like value messaging become very, very important.
‘We’re at the value end of the spectrum anyway, so that should play well for us as a brand, but I’d certainly be recommending all of the dealers to keep those local relationships tight.
‘One of the other learnings I’ve taken out of this is the community bonds that have been taken out in all sorts of strange places over these last few weeks have been brilliant.
‘And if we can as dealers, and as representatives of an industry, remain part of those local communities then that will stand us well in the future.
‘I’d be encouraging all dealers to get involved in the community in a way that possibly none of us have before. That does not necessarily need to be free or high cost.’
When the conversation turned to scrappage, both believed it was a possibility and that it would help the industry but Tyrrell added that ‘we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for it’.
He added: ‘I think the government has spent a lot of money on this coronavirus and whether they can find the extra millions or billions to continue to support one specific industry I’m not sure.
‘If they were going to do anything I think our view would be that a scrappage scheme would be the fairest of the various options that have been discussed.’
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