Auto Trader's Commercial Director, Ian Plummer, provides his view on the latest new car registrations from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
“June has been a crucial month for retailers, particularly in England where forecourts reopened on the first. All our data suggested that the market would bounce-back and while we’re still down by double figures year-on-year, the picture is by no means as bleak as it was in April and May. There’s clearly consumer appetite for both new and used cars; with a record 64 million cross platform visits on Auto Trader in June and the number of consumer leads sent to retailers up a massive 90% year-on-year.
“Car buyers spent 10.5 million hours researching cars in June, but it does take time to convert consumer interest into sales. Consumers will also be hesitant about making expensive purchases too; whether it’s as a result of an uncertain economy and job losses, or because they’re waiting to get clarity from the government as to whether or not they will introduce a scrappage scheme.
“Although sales of EVs are up, the adoption rate is still not rising fast enough to meet the government’s target to ban petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2035, let alone 2032. The current growth rate shows EV sales will overtake sales of traditional combustion engines by 2029, but we need to do this by 2024 to reach the government’s ambitious target. According to research we conducted recently, 77% of consumers want to buy green cars but they are still too expensive; often costing as much as 20% more than their petrol or diesel equivalent, meaning many consumers are simply priced out of buying them. These cars must be incentivised to close the cost gap and increase adoption; 61% surveyed also said they would be more likely to consider a green car if the government were to introduce a £6,000 scrappage scheme.
“It’s more important now than ever before that retailers accelerate their digital presence and adopt an omnichannel retailing approach. COVID-19 has changed the way consumers shop for everything; online retail share of sales are up to one in three (compared to one in five last year) and this trend is mirrored for cars too, with 42% of consumers* now doing more of the car buying process online. Tesla is a great example of a truly omnichannel brand; the way they sell their cars in a seamless online to offline fashion has meant they’ve weathered the storm of lockdown better than most.
“Although consumers can now visit most retailers, 15% of consumers we surveyed are still wary about doing so and as many as 80% are open to completing the purchase online or over the phone and only visiting the retailer to pick up their car. By making the car buying experience easier and more aligned to the needs and expectation of buyers, it will no doubt help to bolster new car sales figures. Put simply, if stock isn’t online it’s not for sale.
“Signs point to a stronger outlook for the used car market – likely as people find alternative means to public transport – but more needs to be done to stabilise the new car market. A cohesive approach is needed by the industry and government to put more consumers behind the wheel of new cars by making the car buying process easier and incentivising new car purchases, particularly if we want them to take up greener alternatively fuelled options.”
*Auto Trader survey 15th – 18th June among 4,956 respondents