Volvo Car UK managing director Kristian Elvefors has said that his retail network is “in pole position” for the safe return to work following the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to AM alongside Waylands Automotive managing director John O’Hanlon this morning (May 1), Elvefors insisted that the Swedish brand would treat staff and consumer wellbeing with the same meticulous approach as it applied to the safety of its vehicles.
And while the brand took the early step of issuing personal protective equipment (PPE) to its franchisees, along with social distancing guidance to aid their re-opening efforts, it has now upgraded its ‘Order Online’ car retail platform and introduced live chat to its web offering.
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“The Volvo reboot effort has been a combined effort by the brand and its retail partners,” Elvefors said. “We’ve had really good dialogue with out retailers and that’s put us in pole position to re-start trading.”
Volvo’s online sales service offers customers a complete way of buying a new car – personal contract purchase (PCP), conditional sale and cash purchase – from the safety of their own home.
Customers can also now opt for contactless home delivery of their new car, in-line with government guidelines, with a valet app allowing them to track the status of their vehicle delivery.
The contactless online e-signature software from its new car buying platform can also be used to buy cars from its Volvo Selekt approved used car scheme.
Elvefors said that he expected 100% of Volvo sales to be conducted via the online platform by 2025 –when asked about Mercedes-Benz’s predictions that a quarter of its sales would be completed online by that date – but said that those would may handled in a dealership, at home or in a workplace.
“The reality is that the platform, with its e-signature process and other advantages can really speed-up the sales process and I think that benefits the sales transaction, wherever the customer chooses to make that happen,” he said. “Having one platform to deliver all process makes sense in terms of speed and simplicity.”
O’Hanlon suggested that he saw up to 30% of sales being completed wholly online by 2025.
Volvo’s retailers remain at the heart of the online sales process, either way, and will complete the delivery as well as handling part-exchanges.
Commenting on the process for that at the current time, O’Hanlon told AM about the vehicle movements handled by the AM Awards 2020's Best Dealer Group (up to 10 sites), Waylands Automotive. He said: “We have a standardised treatment for all logistics process and our guys are equipped with gloves and mask, while the cars have covers on the seats steering wheel and gear levers.
“In the event that we have to collect a part-exchange from a customer, all the relevant PPE will be worn for collection and the car will not have been used for a period of 72 hours.”
O'Hanlon said that Waylands had recieved 120 sales enquiries during April, completing 50. "That's a 40% conversion, which says to me that the sales happening right now are driven by need rather than desire," he said.
Elvefors and O’Hanlon said that changes had been made to working policies in Volvo showrooms across the UK to ensure the safety of staff, and of customers as the current Government-imposed lockdown measures are eased.
While Elvefors insisted that measures such as a reduced number of cars in a showroom to create extra waiting areas for customers which observe social distancing, the changes would not jeopardise the roll-out of the brand’s Volvo Retail Experience (VRE) corporate identity concept to the 15% of retailers who have yet to upgrade their showroom facilities.
He did concede, however, that Volvo’s policy of having two technicians working on each car had been put “on hold” due to social distancing.
He said: “In some other European countries where the social distancing guidelines have stipulated a 1.5 metre distance, we have adapted and been able to make that work, but here in the UK it will be put on hold.”
For those who don’t need to drive during the lockdown period, Volvo is helping them avoid any unnecessary trips to their retailer with a three-month extension to servicing time limits.
The same extension has also been applied to new car warranties and roadside assistance packages.
Elvefors said: “At Volvo, everything we do starts with safety. While we are here for all of our customers and their varying requirements – whether buying a car online or keeping their existing vehicle running – we want to reassure them that they can interact with us safely at every step.”