By Debbie Holden 15 Jun 2020 5 min read

Car buyers cautious about visiting dealerships


Auto Trader released a survey recently that revealed how confident car buyers were about visiting a dealership.


Out of more than 6,300 survey respondents, 36% said they would feel more comfortable purchasing a car over the phone or online with home delivery. 


When Auto Trader also assessed how comfortable car buyers were in visiting a dealership in person, however, while more than half of respondents (53%) said they would either be likely (38%) or very likely (15%) to visit, over a third (37%) were unlikely (24%), or very unlikely (13%) to visit.


19% said home test drives would make the buying experience more comfortable, 14% identified good safety measures implemented at the dealership, and 5% said video test drives would make them feel more comfortable. 8% of those surveyed however, said they would not feel comfortable doing any of the above measures.  


Demand for cars is still healthy however – 35% said they were planning on purchasing a car in the next three months, 51% said they were looking to purchase a car in the next 12 months, and 19% were keen to purchase a car in the next two weeks. 


Karolina Edwards-Smajda, commercial product director at Auto Trader, said: “Whilst it may not remain at the record levels we’re currently observing on our marketplace, it is extremely reassuring to see that a high level of consumer demand is set to continue.


“The key outtake for us is that whilst demand is high, retailers can’t lose sight of the fact that today’s retail landscape is not the same as it was pre-lockdown – showrooms may have reopened, but that doesn’t mean car buyers want to visit them.


“There’s been a seismic rebalance of the retail model over the last 11 weeks and the digital forecourt has never been more influential in the car buying journey.”


Auto Trader also reported that 42% of consumers are looking to replace an existing car, while 41% are buying a car because they currently don;t have one or require an extra car. 16.5% also wanted a car to avoid having to take public transport, where there is increased risk of contracting the virus.


Transport Focus also confirmed that travelling by car was more favourable, as a study they conducted revealed that 60% of respondents would rather drive than take public transport, once the travel restrictions are lifted. 


Motorpoint also reported that 60% of people wouldn’t be returning to public transport. 


What can dealerships do to improve consumer concerns on visiting?

Implementing social distancing rules, amongst a variety of other safety measures is essential if you want to restore the faith in consumers visiting your showroom. 


Devonshire Motors owner Nathan Tomlinson was recently interviewed by AM Online. He talks about how the car retail sector must move quickly to “normalise” socially-distanced car showrooms to avoid deterring anxious customers.


“I can’t help thinking that the overriding message from the sector has been of stringent measures and what customers considering a return to the showroom are seeing are staff in masks and temperature checks at the doors,” he said.


“Reassurance continues to be very important, but we need to make people realise that they are free to come out and buy a car. The message needs to be more welcoming.”