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DEALERSHIPS see the digital revolution in the car buying industry as an opportunity rather than a challenge; while Brexit has not had as much of an impact on forecourts and showrooms as was first anticipated

Following several interviews with car dealers around the UK, car finance provider Oodle found that most said that Brexit had not impacted business in a negative way.

However, it depends on what your buying with used vehicle dealer Essex Car Company saying it was “busier than ever” while Porsche specialist Maundrell revealed it has seen a decrease in footfall.

Maundrell’s Steve Rogers said: “A lot of our customers are self-employed; running their own business. I think over the last 18 months of uncertainty, people have been putting off purchases that are ‘just for fun’.”

The ‘Under The Bonnet’ interview series by Oodle Car Finance aims to uncover concerns that dealers around the UK have, as well as offering insight into the state of the industry moving forward.

When asked for their thoughts about the gradual move online, the view was largely positive. James McCarthy from McCarthy Cars said “For me, it’s less about challenges and instead about the opportunities the digital revolution is going to create. Innovations that allow us to adapt and trade within a new marketplace is only a positive thing.”

However, Mark Zavagno, head of Digital Operations at Stoneacre Motor Group, was of the mindset that online would never fully take over: “I think one of the hopes for dealers like ourselves is that the majority of customers still want to feel a vehicle, touch a vehicle, experience the vehicle before they purchase it. Currently, only 8% of customers are happy to buy a car having never touched it.”

So while there may always be some requirement for face-to-face transactions, dealers are currently working to bring the physical and digital sales process together to work in cohesion.

Looking to the future, V12 Sports and Classics’ Raj Javanda said: “More and more dealers will look to have smaller offices and staff because more things will be done online. There will be less of a need to have a stunning showroom for people to come and browse. The internet allows customers to ask questions through a portal which is significant. CitNow is a company making strides in showing it’s not just about the sale of the car – they’re encouraging dealers to do video messaging for any part of the service.”

Video could therefore effectively bridge the gap that some dealers have concerns about in terms of digital dealings. Graham Westwood from Trade Price Cars also touched up this. He said: “Transparency is the key word in the motor industry at the moment – if you can be a transparent dealer then you get a lot of repeat customers. Consumers want to be informed as to what the dealer is like before they come in.

“So now we’re sending customers personalised videos and it’s a much more live, real-time experience. Everything is becoming more and more online. There will come a point where you won’t even need salesmen, people will just buy cars on websites and it will be our job to get the cars prepped and hand them over.”

Dealers were also asked their thoughts on the future of cars, specifically regarding the electric vehicle market. Darren Caddell from Grovehurst Cars said: “Most often they’ve been sat on our forecourt and we end up selling them back for what we bought them for. Customers are concerned about the batteries – imagine having to drive to Scotland, it would take weeks! The technology might be out there, but we aren’t dealing Teslas just yet!”

Jonny Clayton, Chief Executive of Oodle Car Finance, said: “The move to online is undeniable and the car industry seems to, for the most part, be taking the digital revolution in its stride; embracing it rather than shying away. Online is absolutely an opportunity for dealers around the UK, not something to be wary of.

“What it all boils down to is a need for total transparency, convenience and making the customer’s journey as easy and seamless as possible.”

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