Back to work

  31 May 2020

Today, the red lights turn to green. Car showrooms in England (but not just yet, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) open their doors to customers once again. Auto retail in its most traditional form can recommence: people looking at cars in showrooms, getting guidance from experts, taking a test drive to erase any doubts and then, hopefully, purchasing.

We know it’s going to be different. Social distancing is the name of the game, with one-way systems, Perspex screens, constant cleaning, tanker-loads of hand sanitiser and, whatever you do, no handshakes to seal the deal (oh, and throw away the pen after the customer’s used it, too).

But the industry will adapt. Auto retailers seem to have been on the front foot when it comes to installing safe spaces for staff and customers, and as the first clients this week experience them, the confidence is likely to grow.

Besides, lots of people now both want and need a new car. Maybe their PCP has expired, maybe the lockdown time has given them the chance to do the sums and create the perfect shortlist of models to check out. This is why some are predicting a spike in June deals.

However, the sheer novelty of being able to go out and visit a car showroom will be enough to get others through the doors. And such people present an interesting opportunity.

Certainly, affordability might be a concern for them. It’s over to your team to demonstrate that, yes, they can actually afford a new car, be it £99 a month PCPs, low deposits, even Alfa Romeo-style guarantees that finance will be covered if people lose their job.

You’ve probably already been remotely in touch with the hot prospects itching to visit you and sign off on their new car. It’s with the other group of people who might not have done any research beforehand that your team can really make the difference.

As Robert Forrester recently said, Boris Johnson gave the industry the best possible advert when he announced on his Sunday evening broadcast that showrooms would be among the first to reopen. As the shutters go up, it might just be your opportunity to sell cars to people you’ve not ever spoken to before.

Are you ready with the particular information during this economically uncertain time they might need to convert?

Richard Aucock

Editor, Auto Retail Agenda

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