Ian Plummer, Auto Trader's Commercial Director, shares his views on the latest new car registrations from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
“With retailers forced to close the doors to their physical forecourts, it’ll come as no surprise to anyone to see just how dramatic an impact it’s had on the new car market. Some brands have been able to sell remotely, but uncertainty in the government’s guidelines or a lack of the required infrastructure to operate home delivery in a safe way, has limited it to all but a handful of retailers.
“Whilst the market is down significantly, our data does point to a market that has been paused, rather than stopped, and ready to return to health quickly once the restrictions have been lifted. Whilst traffic to our platforms has fallen, we’re still seeing circa 1 million visits every day. What’s more, our research of over 3,000 consumers conducted last week showed that only 2% have been put off from buying a new vehicle. In fact, 25% said they wanted to buy a vehicle as soon as they could, and 57% said they’d still buy in 2020.
“The same research showed that 48% public transport users would be less likely to use it as a result of social distancing anxieties, and for the same reason, 56% of driving licence holders who don’t currently own a vehicle would now consider buying one. It highlights the need for retailers to use this period to plan how they can implement measures that seek to reassure potential car buyers they can purchase a car safely. We’re confident the demand is there, but unless retailers are retail ready for when the restrictions lift, they’ll find themselves at a huge disadvantage to those that are. Something few can afford at such a challenging time.
“With potentially more people behind the wheel, there’s a chance for the industry to accelerate the adoption of low emission vehicles. However, it’ll be essential for manufacturers to push more EVs into their UK networks along with greater financial incentives. Discussions have already started in Germany and France, for example, into the possible introduction of scrappage schemes favouring low CO2 cars and EVs. Otherwise consumers will stick to what they know. It’ll be a wasted opportunity to drive positive change in the market and will push the government’s 2035 emissions ambitions further out of reach.”