Auto Trader's commercial director, Ian Plummer, shares his thoughts on the latest new car registrations from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
Ian Plummer, Commercial Director, Auto Trader
“Given the challenges the industry has faced over the last 12 months, and the fact retailers were only able to fully reopen halfway through the month, April’s performance is a respectable result and strengthens our confidence in a solid and sustained return to market health.
“Following the reopening of physical forecourts on the 12th, we saw levels of consumer demand on Auto Trader accelerate significantly last month, increasing 37% on April 2019. The number of visits to our marketplace saw a similar boost, growing 36%. Over 1.6 million people viewed a new car in April alone, resulting in our second highest number of new car leads being sent to retailers.
“Encouragingly, in addition to these metrics, wider economic factors suggest this performance won’t be limited to a short surge. Not only is the Bank of England set to raise its growth forecasts for the UK when it publishes its latest monetary policy report on Thursday, but in April the GFK consumer confidence index rose to its highest level since the start of the pandemic. This aligns to our own research which shows that consumers' confidence in being able to afford their next car remains very high, and significantly ahead of pre-pandemic levels.
“It's not surprising the reopening of showrooms has had an extremely positive effect. However, whilst consumers clearly still place huge value on the showroom experience and many prefer to complete their purchase in person, most of the digital-first behaviours we observed during lockdown have continued. Most people favour a blended retail experience, which includes significantly more digital touchpoints than before. Crucially, this is something consumers appear set to continue with, so genuine success over future months will be reserved for those who embrace the digital tools that served them so well during lockdown to help deliver a seamless online-offline experience.
“Last month also marked another significant leap forward for pure electric vehicles with more sold in April than in all of 2018; on our marketplace one in every seven visitors looked at an electric option during their car search. This huge demand has been boosted by the rapid growth in choice; the number of distinct models in the market and on our site has doubled in the last year, and equally choice of available stock of new and used EVs has tripled. Whilst conversion from consideration to purchase remains relatively low, we have no doubt the levels of adoption will accelerate significantly as they become more affordable and the required infrastructure improves.”