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Car dealers continue to go contactless to address COVID-19 concerns, says CarGurus

Wendy Harris, vice president of European sales at CarGurus

Car dealers are adopting increased levels of contactless and online retail technology to meet new purchasing demands among car buyers, according to CarGurus.

New contactless features offered by CarGurus have seen a swift uptake, with 43% of paying dealers now offering one or more of them on vehicles that they are selling through the CarGurus UK platform.

Among the various contactless services introduced in April, virtual appointments have proved one of the most popular, with 32% of paying dealers now making it available for customers.

Contactless purchasing, which enables buyers to either pay for or finance a vehicle remotely with any paperwork being delivered to them at home, is also now widely accessible, being offered on 46% of all vehicles for sale by paying dealers.

CarGurus recently announced the integration of WhatsApp to its online and used car marketplace, to allow dealers to interact with customers via the social media app.

Wendy Harris, vice president of European sales at CarGurus, said: “In an industry that has sometimes been accused of being slow to embrace new technologies, the speed with which car dealers have adapted to the changing landscape is extremely impressive.

“Just a year ago the concept of booking a virtual appointment at a car dealership would have seemed far-fetched, and yet today we have nearly a third of all paying dealers on CarGurus UK embracing technology and offering this service to prospective buyers.

A recent survey by CarGurus of 1,104 UK car buyers showed that consumer sentiment towards the dealership experience has shifted significantly amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Previously 33% of car buyers were open to purchasing a car online, a number which has almost doubled to 61% in the latest CarGurus survey. 33% of respondents said they would prefer an online transaction.

Auto Trader also reported a 25% increase in online demand during July, reflecting the increased interest.

For those willing to visit dealerships, areas such as hygiene and adhering to social distancing remain extremely important to customers, according to CarGurus.

The findings reflect those of an Ipsos Mori consumer survey - reported by AM yesterday - which found consumers' COVID-19 concerns have shown no sign of waning following the easing of lockdown measures.

CarGurus found that most current prospective buyers (76%) would now prefer to shop from home and make use of contactless buying tools.

The survey also found that three quarters of car buyers who put off a purchase during lockdown are still actively searching for their next vehicle.

CarGurus reported it had seen lead volumes increase 15% to its English trading partners as car showrooms reopened their doors.

Despite suggestions from What Car? that many car buyers had emerged from lockdown with more to spend on a vehicle, CarGurus found that many car buyers are less confident in their ability to afford a vehicle purchase as a result of COVID-19 (43%), creating greater demand for financing deals.

Harris said: “Aside from demonstrating how dynamic the businesses that make up this industry are, perhaps it also emphasises the scale of the challenge still faced by the industry in light of COVID-19.

“At CarGurus we’re committed to being a supportive partner to our dealers, and we will continue to develop tools that help them to satisfy the changing needs of customers.”

Download the full CarGurus COVID-19 Sentiment Study here.

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