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How Coronavirus Will Change The Way We Buy Cars

22 September 2020

How Coronavirus Will Change The Way We Buy Cars

The coronavirus pandemic has altered almost all aspects of everyday life, and the process of buying a car from a dealer is certainly no different. The automotive industry was one of many to be badly hit by the outbreak, with dealerships all over the country forced to shut in line with lockdown regulations.

Inevitably, sales numbers experienced a drastic fall, with new car registrations in April and May down 97.3% and 89% respectively in comparison to the same months in the previous year. Those figures are starting to show signs of recovery, however, as people start to adapt to what has been described as “the new norm”.

So, how are things different? What does car buying during coronavirus look like now? And which of these changes could be here to stay?

How Coronavirus Will Change The Way We Buy Cars

How did coronavirus affect car dealerships at first?

When strict lockdown measures were first announced by the government in late March, car dealerships across the country had to react and adapt as best they could. Here at Robins & Day, for example, we allowed customers to reserve a vehicle online for 30 days until we knew showrooms were safe to re-open.

As lockdown continued beyond that period, we reassured those customers that we would not sell the vehicle until they had a chance to see it for themselves. And these changes were rewarded by a huge increase of online reservations, with more than 1,000 recorded in June alone. On top of that, our live chat function was available for anyone who wanted to reach out and ask us questions.

What further changes have dealerships made?

For those looking to buy a car during coronavirus, the process is likely to look a lot different. Social distancing guidelines mean many dealers are offering a click and collect service, where customers make an appointment to pick up their vehicle at an agreed time in order to minimise contact.

Alternatively, home delivery has become an increasingly popular option, offering customers the added convenience of having their vehicle brought straight to their door.

How have aftersales services been affected?

In light of the initial lockdown restrictions, the government announced that all MOTs would be automatically extended by six months. During the early days of lockdown, a number of our aftersales sites and parts hubs remained open in order to prioritise key workers and critical fleets for all their service and MOT needs. Gradually, along with many other dealerships, we have been able to offer online bookings to all customers, which will hopefully help to ease the workload as those extended MOTs begin to expire.

How Coronavirus Will Change The Way We Buy Cars

How have customers reacted?

So, how have things changed for anyone looking to buy a car after coronavirus? Studies have shown that the number of people willing to purchase online has increased from 70% to 80%. Meanwhile, one-eighth of public transport users say they will buy a car as an alternative, which could point to an increase in demand over the next few months.

As we’ve already mentioned, numbers took a significant hit in the wake of the pandemic, with data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealing that the used car market dropped 48.9% in Q2 compared to last year. However, statistics for July show vehicle registrations to be up 11.3% from the same month in 2019, which offers cause for optimism.

“As devastating as these [used car] figures are, with full lockdown measures in place for the whole of April and May, they are not surprising,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “As the UK starts to get back on the move again and dealerships continue to re-open, we expect to see more activity return to the market, particularly as many people see cars as a safe and reliable way to travel during the pandemic.”

What can be done to reassure those looking to buy a car during coronavirus?

Dealers across the country have to make the safety and wellbeing of their staff and customers their number one priority, and here at Robins & Day we’re certainly no different. We are now back open seven days a week, enabling potential buyers to visit us when they feel most comfortable.

And dealerships nationwide have put in place a number of measures that follow government guidelines and protect all employees and customers as much as possible. These include visits by appointment, one-way systems, the wearing of masks and other PPE, the introduction of Perspex screens and enhanced hygiene protocols regarding the disinfection of all cars and contact points. Hopefully, these measures will encourage anyone looking to buy a car during coronavirus that they can do so in a safe and secure manner.

What does the future hold for car buying after coronavirus?

Although some of the on-site changes may not prove permanent, the process of buying a car from a dealer may have been altered for good by the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for online sales and reservations has certainly ramped up and as dealers expand their capabilities to provide a more comprehensive offering, that method of purchasing may be here to stay.

That in turn could see greater numbers of customers opt for home delivery, which offers an added level of convenience that might prove increasingly attractive as we all begin to adapt to the new normall. The process of buying a car certainly looks much different today, but here at Robins & Day we can still help you find the right new or used vehicle for your needs, so why not find your nearest dealer or get in touch with us at your convenience.


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