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New car finance: Lack of price transparency and simplicity still dog Q1

Finance road warning signs

The big volume players of 2019 like Ford, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz provide an important litmus test for retail offer success due to finance being a key player in getting units moving.

Ford is continuing with its tried and tested 0% support across most of its model range on key models like the Fiesta to continue its position as the most popular car in the UK. Ford is also supporting models with deposit contributions including £1,000 off the Fiesta and £500 off the Focus.

The VW Golf was the second best seller in the UK last year and it is supported by 0% and a £199 service plan that covers the first two services. There are also deposit contributions across the range, with £1,250 off the Polo and T-Roc. Larger models like the Passat get even bigger discounts in Q1 with up to £4,000 off.

Mercedes-Benz is sticking with a fairly high APR on its models in Q1, but this hasn’t hurt its volumes over the past 12 months. The A-Class was a top five seller in the UK last year and Mercedes is further supporting the model with three years’ free servicing in Q1.

The only downside to Mercedes’ offers in Q1 is that they have become quite tricky to find online and this could hinder consumer research before they can get more help at the showroom.

It’s a problem that’s not just limited to Mercedes.

Ian Plummer, Auto Trader commercial director, told AM that while most brands are embracing finance offers, the company is not seeing any fundamental changes to their platforms or how they’re promoted.

He said: “Our recent Car Buyers' Report highlighted that a lack of price transparency and simplicity are two of the biggest pain points for car buyers and responsible for dramatically slowing sales. Yet we still see manufacturers hiding their finance on a separate section of their website, limiting offers to certain models, not making them available to a bespoke configuration, or not promoting them against specific stock.

“By doing this, brands and retailers can often end up frustrating car buyers, making the process more complex and hindering sales as a result – at a time when the industry can ill afford to do so.”

Mike Hawes, Society for Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) chief executive, said customers will only respond to new electric and hybrid models if economic confidence is strong and the technology is affordable. 

Looking at the offers on pure EVs in Q1, Nissan’s Leaf stands out due to the monthly payments of £267 and a promotion that is running until the end of March for a free vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging solution. This offer is limited to the first 1,000 Leaf customers that sign up with brand’s energy partner OVO and includes a £75 credit towards energy bills.

The VW e-Golf, MG ZS EV and Renault Zoe all offer options for those looking to make the switch in Q1 for less than £300 a month.

For a searchable list of manufacturers’ finance offers, go to



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