All signs point to pent-up demand

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 2900 users.

With less than a month to go until showrooms in England are set to reopen, there is growing evidence to suggest that dealers will face pent-up consumer demand following months of closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past few weeks, we have been tracking various market indicators to understand what April will have in store for retailers. One of these metrics is the number of lead enquiries that dealers using our New Car Buying platform are receiving; we have seen an 11.8% spike in leads week-on-week, followed by equally impressive uplifts in traffic to our website.

Traffic to our online deals pages is up 18.1% when compared with the first 14 days in February, showing that buyers are increasingly starting to move from the research phase to the purchase phase of their car buying journey.

We’ve also seen a similar shift in our purchase timings. Our latest weekly industry research of 2946 in-market buyers found that 22.9% are now looking to buy in the next one to three months, while 15.2% are set to buy in the next four weeks, and 19.5% in more than six months’ time.

These purchase timeframes are very different to the first week of February, when we saw just 10% of buyers looking to buy in four weeks and 28% set to buy after six months or more. As we saw with the first lockdown lifting in June, buyers are once again progressing their purchases as the end of showroom closures comes into sight.

When the Government announced it would aim to open non-essential retail – including showrooms – in England on April 12th , our weekly industry research found that 59% of in-market buyers decided to delay their purchase until at least April 12th .

All these signs point towards a busy second quarter for the sector. After experiencing enforced closures throughout March – traditionally the biggest month of the year for new car sales – this will be music to the ears of lockdown-weary retailers up and down the country.

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