The automotive industry was one of the hardest hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether it was buying a car, or having a vehicle serviced, consumers lost interest as the lockdown kicked in and they had nowhere to go. Now, as Britain gradually emerges from coronavirus restrictions, car sales are on the move again!
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Before the pandemic gathered pace and the first lockdown began in March 2020, 71% of consumers surveyed said they were “very or extremely likely” to buy a new car. By May 2020, this had dropped to 53%, according to research by McKinsey and Company.
This was no surprise, as 51% of respondents also said they planned to travel less than before the pandemic, as they adhered to the emergency laws that forbade travelling farther afield.
Car buying behaviour
The number of car buyers who would consider purchasing a vehicle entirely online grew by 24% during the pandemic. In fact, in January 2020, during the third national lockdown, an editorial in Autocar suggested this would become the “new normal” in post-pandemic Britain.
This prediction has proved unfounded, as the number of potential online car buyers has decreased again and remains flat at 59%, according to an updated survey in August 2021. This signifies consumers’ qualms about face-to-face interactions in car showrooms are subsiding.
A survey of almost 4,000 customers, published in September 2021 by Vertu, revealed more than 80% of people would prefer to visit a dealership in person to buy a car. In the case of drivers seeking part exchange, 82% said they would also prefer face-to-face dealings.
The forecast for aftermarket services such as maintenance, servicing and repairs has also improved. Motorists were delaying services and even essential repairs during the pandemic, as they didn’t see any urgent need to have the work done.
Now, as the UK continues to return to something resembling normality, more customers have been booking into service centres for vehicle maintenance, rather than putting it off.
Analysts say the percentage of people likely to buy a new car is almost back to pre-pandemic levels at 70%. This is a rise of 8% year-on-year since September 2020, when only 62% of motorists were considering buying a new or pre-owned car.
While people’s mobility was limited during the lockdowns, as the UK opens up again, we’re gradually getting back to normal.
Before the pandemic, 78% of people surveyed said they used a private car at least once a week. During the pandemic, 29% of motorists said they used their car “a little less” and 21% used it “a lot less”, according to the RAC.
By June 2021, 76% of motorists were driving on a regular basis again. By September, drivers’ mobility levels were judged to be back to normal, with 79% using a private car at least once a week.
Commuting patterns vary regionally but analysts say, in general, cars are coming out of the garage again as people are moving back to their workplace, rather than working from home.
Average car buyer
While more people are planning to buy a new or second-hand car now than they were last year, younger people, in particular, don’t have as much money to spend. The average age of new car buyers in Britain is 54. People in their 50s, 60s and 70s are responsible for buying the majority of new cars.
The Fiat is the only new car where the majority of buyers are under 50 – and only just, as the average age of a new Fiat buyer is 49!
Younger people tend to buy pre-owned cars, despite the marketing companies depicting young people buying new cars in the adverts. Those adverts where a pair of twenty-somethings are heading to the beach in a shiny new convertible are not accurate on the whole!
Are sales of electric cars increasing?
Almost half (49%) of motorists say they are in favour of “green” motoring and believe environmentally-friendly initiatives should be accelerated.
More people say they are interested in buying electric vehicles. However, this tends to be mostly in mainland Europe and China and depends on government incentives, although some say their interest has been sparked by increased consciousness about sustainability.
In the UK, a poll of 17,628 motorists revealed 47% wanted to make the switch to electric driving. However, not enough charging points, the price of electric cars and a lack of choice put many drivers off.
Why is the car showroom important?
Now that people are returning to buy their new vehicle in person, the importance of the car showroom has increased. More than 80% of buyers say they prefer a face-to-face experience. Only 6% prefer a live virtual tour and only 2% prefer an online-only purchase.
Of those who prefer attending a car showroom in person, almost 60% say they feel more comfortable and have a better customer experience when visiting a dealership. Being able to ask questions freely is one of the main reasons.
The survey by Vertu concluded online options had helped car buyers during the pandemic, but now life is getting back to normal, customers don’t feel online purchasing is going to become the norm. This finding emphasises why a salesperson should understand the importance of the showroom and the role it plays in making a sale.
How to maximise showroom sales
Buying a car is one of the most expensive purchases a person will make, so today’s modern car showrooms are often lavish affairs, with wide windows, bright lights, vast stone or polished floors and a general feeling of opulence.
A car showroom owner must ask some important questions, including possibly the most important: Can my customers and staff see the showroom without obstruction?
No matter how many great vehicles you have, you’re wasting their potential if people can’t see them properly. Customers may not find what they’re looking for and sales staff won’t have the means to direct an undecided customer to look at another vehicle.
A car showroom should be located on a highly visible site, where there is access to main transport routes. It needs an eye-catching frontage, displaying the range of cars to maximum effect. The frontage, layout and orientation of display areas will have a major impact on sales.
Today’s most popular trend is having a double height display area, with the main frontage having full height glazing, making a stunning design statement and providing the highest visibility for new vehicles.
Showroom lighting reinforces your brand identity, displaying vehicles in the best light and creating the right mood – making it a very useful sales tool.
Contact Commercial Aluminium Shopfronts for details of our specialist services in the manufacture and installation of commercial shopfronts, entrances and facades. With our extensive experience in the industry, our in-house team of experts will assure unrivalled product excellence and customer service. We can help maximise your selling potential.