What a year 2015 has been.
The major takeovers have started again: Lookers buying Benfield, Vertu buying South Hereford, and Stoneacre taking over Autoworld. There is no doubt that such activity will continue in 2016 as the groups still see plenty of opportunity to consolidate the industry further.
However, that consolidation is happening at a relatively slow pace when compared with the speed at which motor retail is destined to become a more digital industry. There is a wake-up call on the way for those in this sector who have seen digital as a purely marketing tool until now, and who have said it won’t be a commerce channel for big-ticket items.
Although it will be deeply embroiled in the emissions cheating scandal for some time yet, Volkswagen Group deserves some credit for its forward-thinking approach to motor retail. For two years, its ‘blended retailing’ strategy has been smoothing the seams between the digital and physical aspects of the customer journey.
Others have gone further still. Hyundai Rockar is selling cars digitally through its two shopping centre stores. BMW Retail Online allows consumers to choose, spec and buy their car entirely online in under 10 minutes. Mazda has begun allowing consumers in London to use ‘MyWay’, which offers the test drive, part-exchange valuation and car handover at the buyer’s home or workplace. Cambria Automobiles already has a digital salesperson in each of its showrooms, and now Vertu Motors, which already sells a small proportion of cars online, has bought Aceparts, an e-commerce operator that sells quality car parts.
Our recent poll of more than 600 consumers found that four in 10 would consider an option to buy a car online and have it delivered to their home. Make sure digital is in your plan for 2016.
Our festive cover illustration this month was by George Williams of Spot On Caricatures. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all of our readers.
Managing editor, AM - Automotive Management