Of course, you can continue with your car buying journey from the comfort of your own home, with a view to what’s now being called ‘Distance Selling’, many dealerships’ websites, and s1cars, have explanatory videos that will walk you around the cars they have in the showroom and on the forecourt, so you can get a real feeling of what they’re like before you leave home. If the car you’re interested in hasn’t been filmed and posted in that way, most dealerships will be happy to put together a quick walk-around film and send it to you.
When you do visit the showroom, you should find that a lot of work has gone in to simplifying the sales process so that there’s as little physical paperwork as possible.
Are people still interested in buying cars?
All the current evidence suggests yes. Industry analysts expect the used car market to bounce back rather more quickly than the new (used car values held encouragingly firm in April). As manufacturer deals kick in and interest re-awakens amongst consumers, you can expect things to move quite quickly with regards to new model sales, especially with plenty of brand-new models released in March to coincide with the new registration plate.
At Exchange and Mart and s1cars, we have seen a high demand for used cars with response to our dealers up 72% in February compared to last year and visits to our site up 6% in March so far compared to 2020. Whilst physical showrooms have been closed for months, car buyers have been keen to continue with their research and are also taking advantage of non-contact buying options that many dealers have put in place since the first lockdown last year. Services such as click and collect and home delivery have allowed dealers to ensure that those needing a new car, for whatever reason, could do so safely. We imagine that whilst showrooms have now been given the go ahead to open their doors again, many people will still have reservations about visiting in person. Therefore, we expect that many of the dealers who offer these non-contact delivery and sales methods will continue to do so for those who want to buy a car but would rather do it from the comfort of their own home or from a distance. If anything, lockdown has encouraged many dealers to adapt their sales methods and embrace many digital-focused tools such as video walkthroughs, online buying and virtual test drives, which we hope will continue into the future.
Is now a good time to buy a new car?
Potentially, yes. A lot’s been written about potential stock shortages towards the end of the year when the effect of production lockdowns kicks in. That may or may not happen as car production has got up to speed more quickly than expected, helped by the speed at which component suppliers (particularly those in China) were able to return to full production capacity. But that lack of production will certainly have an effect on dealership stocks towards the back end of this year. Another influencing factor might be production reductions due to the more stringent EC emissions regulations introduced this year, a change that would have affected supply in any case.
What we do know is that manufacturers have to move quite a lot of stock right now – cars that were delivered to dealerships pre-lockdown for the usually relatively buoyant March registration plate-change market. And those cars need to find customers, so you can expect the deals on offer over the next few weeks to be extremely attractive and accompanied by some extremely aggressive marketing. At the moment we are still waiting to see the full impact of Brexit on the UK car market.
All of this combined means that buying a new car now – or over the next month or so – could be a considerably cheaper proposition than buying it early next year. If customers agree, then hopes could be realised that the UK market could mirror that of China, where the lockdown was imposed far earlier, and car sales are already returning to pre-pandemic levels.