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Poor prospecting loses sales leads

The car market may be tough but some motor retailers are still failing to properly follow up leads and prospective customers in their used car departments.

Franchised dealers are steadily getting to grips with customer databases and managing their relationship from new car sale to re-purchase.

But there is little emphasis on building a lasting relationship with the used car buyer.

In the latest study, only half of used car buyers could remember which dealer they bought their car from and just one in three had ever been contacted by the dealership post-sale for customer satisfaction. And only one in 10 customers was prospected to see if they were considering buying again.

If they had done so, dealers would have a one in five chance of finding a prospective customer (18% said they or a family member were likely to need a car change within 12 months).

Reactive not pro-active

This lack of pro-active prospecting approach would seem out of touch with the toughening market conditions that dealers currently report.

Professor Peter Cooke, head of automotive management at the University of Buckingham, agreed: “The past few years’ consumer research suggests dealers are commonly reactive rather than proactive when it comes to selling used cars.

“While a used car may not have the same appeal as a new one, to would-be buyers it is still a new car and they expect the same level of attention when buying a used vehicle as a new model – yet there is a clear message emerging that this is not always what happens.”

Franchised dealers’ used car departments continue to get the lion’s share of the market, with 49% of those planning to buy saying they would purchase from this segment.

However, this figure has dipped slightly compared to last year, to the gain of the non-franchised sector, the choice of 16% of respondents. Almost a quarter said they would buy their next used car privately.

The findings, contained in the BCA Used Car Market Report, written by Professor Cooke, are the result of 2,100 interviews with motorists.

Cooke added: “It’s a hard, expensive and time-consuming business continually searching for new customers to interest them in buying a car.

"Keeping in regular touch with existing customers and, at the right time, discussing the possibility of them changing their car is likely to be a much more rewarding approach.

“Many used car dealers are relying on the vast majority of their customers getting in touch, and having to go out and find lots of entirely new prospects to fill the lost golden opportunities.”

Market trends highlighted by the BCA Used Car Market Report

  • Volumes of nearly new to two-year-old cars declined 5.9% to 989,000 units (14% of the used car market).
  • Sales of three- to five-year-old cars are slower, falling 13.8% to 1.98 million units (27.6%).
  • Strong demand for cars aged six to eight years meant a 5.9% increase in sales to 1.63 million units (23.1%).
  • Sales of cars aged nine years or older continue to slow with a 3.8% drop to 2.49 million units (35.3%).
  • Despite the overall 5.2% decline in used car sales, the value of those sales declined only 1.8% to £33.3 billion.
  • The average sales price of franchised and non-franchised dealers’ used cars increased from £6,266 to £6,464.

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