April is the new March; Auto Trader’s Ian Plummer, comments on February’s new car registrations
“Given the current restrictions, last month’s sizeable drop in new car registrations comes as little surprise. And confirmation from the Prime Minister that forecourts will have to remain closed during the key sales month of March was disappointing, particularly amongst those that feel car dealerships have retail environments which are at least as safe as other that have been permitted to remain open. With UK car production down nearly 30% due in part to the closures, the government needs to recognise the value in driving car sales as well as local production, both of which contribute major tax revenues the Treasury can surely ill afford to curb.
“However, the strong metrics that we’re recording on our marketplace, which in February resulted in a 100% increase in the number of new car leads being sent to retailers, point to very healthy levels of demand in the market. What’s more, several wider economic factors point to another period of strong retail demand once forecourts reopen in April. This includes the latest Bank of England findings indicating average household finances are better off than they were pre-COVID, as well as our own research which revealed that consumers' confidence in being able to afford their next car remains very high.
“It’s important to note however, that online sales are still permitted, and the fact most retailers are currently performing at around 70-80% of normal new and used car volumes, not only highlights the success retailers have made of their digital channels, but also that there are still sales to be made this month. Therefore, instead of waiting until 12th April, retailers must use this time effectively; to either close those willing to complete their purchase online or at least at a distance; or to ready those currently researching and negotiating the best deals in preparation of being able to see or test drive their chosen car. Either way, there remains huge opportunities available.”