THE SPEED with which dealers have adapted to the new normal over the past few weeks has been “little short of breathtaking”, said Startline Motor Finance.
Chief Executive Paul Burgess said that, effectively, many had changed from being largely traditional showroom-based retail businesses to online-based enterprises in a matter of weeks.
He said: “There has been little opportunity, or perhaps even headspace, to stand back and look at what we have achieved as an industry in recent months but it has, to my mind, been little short of breathtaking.
“Large dealer businesses with well-established models of operation have had to completely reinvent themselves in a timescale that arguably should be measured in days or weeks rather than months. It has been an incredibly fast journey.
“No-one knows whether the changes made will be right in the medium-long term – and it could be that we have to go through several more revisions – but they have been very, very effective in meeting the demands of the current market.”
He said the situation that had developed over recent months had been recently described to him by one car dealer as “economic Darwinism in action.”
“It’s a really good way of looking at it. Of course, Darwin is known for the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ and that is often seen as being the strongest dominating, but what it is supposed to mean is the fittest for purpose, for the current environment.
“Those dealers that are thriving now and those that will continue to thrive in the future are those who are fittest for purpose, who are working to meet the needs of the market at each point in time.
“Certainly, what we are seeing is that car retailers who moved to develop an understanding of the coronavirus situation quickly, who grasped the implications and adapted their businesses accordingly, have really reaped the benefits in recent weeks.”
Burgess said that Startline had enjoyed record trading since the used car sector began to reopen and that the company could well find that 2020 was its biggest ever year.
“We worked to follow a similar path as the dealers who have been successful, to look at the requirements of the retailers with which we work and the customers with whom we have agreements, to anticipate their needs and change our approach and procedures accordingly.
“For us, it’s been about being agile, thoughtful and responsible when it comes to everyone that Startline deals with, both internally and externally. We have taken the view that how we all respond in difficult times is, to a large degree, the measure of a business.
“Of course, things could change quickly and we are not being complacent but, like the used car sector as a whole, it feels right to acknowledge what has been achieved so far.”