The average UK car dealer has seen a 23% increase in the number of requests for extended test drives from customers in the past 18 months, according to data from DCML.
DCML gathered the information from its online test drive software which links a dealer’s demonstrator fleet to a digital portal.
According to DCML’s stats, drivers are also seeking more unaccompanied tests.
Vince Powell, managing director of DCML, believes dealers need to avoid ‘legacy methods’ and embrace how consumer needs are changing.
He said: “The opportunity to sell in a traditional sense is disappearing fast.
“As a result of distant decision making, with consumers choosing one model rather than a selection to test drive, the demand for more than the usual accompanied test drive is on the rise.”
Some manufacturers and dealer groups are already embracing the trend.
Volvo has implemented its 'Freedom' test drive programme designed to allow its fleet and private customers to mimic their actual driving routines.
Franchised dealership group, Inchcape, operates its own scheme – Drive it Your Way – which gives drivers complete control of when and where unaccompanied test drives take place.
Powell said: “The amount of information available online today from customer reviews to media test drives, videos and branded content, means decision making is increasingly narrow.
“They want to control that decision-making. They want to buy rather than be sold too. That is why they are requesting longer than a sprint around the block with a salesman sat alongside them.”
In addition to the diminishing customer contact points, DCML analysis shows that the number of online test drive requests has increased by 25% over the same period.
Powell said: “Consumers are now a combination of time poor and technologically dependent, thereby creating the demand we’re now seeing.”