95% of buyers comfortable visiting a dealer when restrictions lift as consumer confidence rises

This is the latest report in a series of weekly updates for industry colleagues from Rachael Prasher, managing director of What Car? and Haymarket Automotive. Quoted poll data is from more than 2800 whatcar.com users.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced that showrooms in England will remain closed until at least 12th April, delivering a disappointing blow to the country’s dealers looking to welcome customers back. The plan means showrooms will remain closed throughout the first quarter, including the March plate change, which is typically the busiest month of the year for new car sales.

When showrooms finally do open, our latest research shows there will be very little hesitation from customers in visiting their local dealer. As part of our latest weekly industry study of 2823 in-market buyers, an overwhelming 95% confirmed they would be comfortable entering their dealer’s premises when the lockdown restrictions lift.

The same proportion of buyers also believe that showrooms and retailers can be run in a Covid-safe way, to ensure the welfare of both staff and customers – this figure is up from 89% in October 2020, when the same question was asked.

For those not comfortable visiting a showroom, 27% of respondents said a booking system with timed appointments would make them more comfortable visiting a showroom, while 21% would want to see evidence that vehicles and waiting areas are being regularly disinfected, and 14% would prefer a clear division of space for staff and customers.

It is important to remember that car dealerships were required to meet demanding new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines in order to reopen last June, following months of closures. This saw new hygiene and social distancing measures introduced across dealers.

Showrooms are an ideal retail platform for social distancing and hygiene guidelines, thanks to their typically large open spaces and the possibility of conducting business outside. It’s clear the vast majority of customers appreciate and understand this.

Responding to our survey findings, the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) said the results were “extremely encouraging”. NFDA Chief Executive Sue Robinson said: “the fact that most respondents are confident that dealerships can be run in a covid-safe way pays testament to the efforts dealers have been making over the past months to follow covid-secure guidelines and protect the health of staff and customers”

“Our members have repeatedly implemented the required, robust safety precautions and it is positive that consumers recognise their efforts. Although we are disappointed that showrooms in England will need to remain shut during the March plate-change, dealers will continue to offer click and collect services while they look forward to safely welcoming customers back as soon as it is allowed”

For further insight from whatcar.com’s unique website data, please contact insights@haymarket.com