Record leads and interaction with What Car?’s New Car Buying platform point to rapidly growing new car 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 1800 whatcar.com users.

New car buyers using What Car?’s New Car Buying service are contacting dealers in record numbers, indicating surging demand in the run up to the September plate change.

Enquiries from customers using the online platform to contact retailers ramped up from late July – an upturn that pushed the monthly total 13.3% above the annual average, making it the biggest full month of the year to date – and have continued to build rapidly in August.

Up to August 8 What Car? users made 26% more enquiries year-on-year through New Car Buying – with enquiries last Sunday hitting an all-time record for the platform, up 84.6% on the corresponding day last year. This is despite there being a surge in New Car Buying enquiries following the ending of lockdown in 2020.

An additional 8% surge year-on-year in interaction between customers and dealers in August also underlines that those making enquiries are more engaged, giving retailers and manufacturers improved opportunity to convert enquiries to sale if they can negotiate the current supply issues that are holding back a sales recovery in the sector.

These levels of interest are also supported by indications of surging new car buying interest from What Car?’s weekly polling of visitors to its website.

Based on feedback from 1836 respondents last week, 38% are looking to buy a car within the next four weeks – a near doubling in readiness to buy compared to the past three months. A further 28% said they are looking to buy within one to three months, suggesting a steady stream of customers will continue to the end of the year.

Nearly a third of all buyers have already got in touch with a dealer about a potential purchase, while 21% have already booked or undertaken a test drive. Our research also found most buyers (55%) are looking to choose between one and three models.

This boom in demand follows news from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) last week highlighting the issues faced by new car buyers as a result of supply being impacted by computer chip and raw material shortages, plus a shortage of workers as a result of the ‘pingdemic’. The UK new car market was down 29.5% compared to the record July last year, when the country first emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic and took advantage of the pent-up demand that had been building for months.

Now, with demand on the rise, the challenge is for dealers to manage customer expectations and build supply pipelines in the coming weeks and months.