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What Car? to refund fees for dealers affected by regional lockdowns

What Car? has pledged to refund fees for retailers and OEMs using its New Car Buying online sales platform if they are affected by any regional COVID-19 lockdowns from October onwards.

The pledge has been made as the company has now restarted charging for its services in September, but it wanted to offer lockdown refunds to ensure retailers never risk being charged if they cannot do business.

This follows on from when What Car? froze payments for all customers when the national lockdown came into effect on March 23 earlier this year.

In total, more than 100,000 sales enquiries were passed to more than 1,000 retail and OEM partners for free.

Kate Hannam, What Car? director of sales and commercial partnerships, said: “Throughout the crisis we have looked to do everything we can to support the industry, moving quickly and decisively to introduce a free period and then extending it after lockdown eased to help businesses get back on their feet.

“On top of that, we maintained our investment in our product, development and editorial teams in order to keep growing the number of in-market car buyers visiting our website."

What Car? has added new sales functionality to its platform, including a system to sell stock cars online.

Users of What Car?’s New Car Buying service pay a fixed monthly tenancy fee to publicise their offers to the brand’s in-market car buyers and are not charged any additional fees when they sell cars.

At present, more than 1000 retail outlets are using the What Car? New Car Buying platform, including Ford Retail, JCT600, Hendy Group, Marshall Motor Group, Pendragon, Robins & Day, Snows, Vertu Motors, Vindis and Waylands Automotive.

Consumer demand is stabilising

What Car?’s data of 8,000 of its users shows the new car market is stabilising from a significant period of forced closure and uncertainty, followed by a wave of pent-up demand. 

The survey asked when buyers intend to purchase their next vehicle, with 22.34% looking to buy in the next four weeks, while 20.60% will look to purchase in the next three months, and 15.99% in the next six months.

This compares with March, when more than half of all buyers said they were postponing their next purchase to at least six months, with just 7.99% looking to buy in three months’ time.

As a sign of pent-up demand, nearly a fifth wanted to purchase as soon as dealerships reopened their doors.

This demand grew throughout the period of dealership closures, reaching 24.91% in May before dealers reopened in June. 

Crucially, as the months have rolled on, the share of buyers postponing their purchase by at least six months has fallen significantly.

In April, it went below 50% for the first time, dropping to just 25% in May, and has since stayed at below 20% since late June. 

What Car? said that with the market gradually stabilising, it doesn’t mean dealers will necessarily experience the same volume of sales as pre-COVID-19 – rather the share of buyers entering showrooms will be more stable than in recent months. 

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