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Consumers widen new car searches during UK's coronavirus lockdown

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Carwow has seen car buyers across the UK widen their search for their perfect new car during the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, with a doubling of sales between 51 and 100 miles from a customer's home address.

The online car marketing platform said that ‘hundreds of sales’ had been completed online within the last week, despite the UK being in lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), adding that that consumers have adopted a ‘new normal’ and have completed their car purchases 100% online.

Its sales data also revealed that in the current circumstances, buyers are willing to look further afield to find the right new car to meet their needs, as sales 51-100 miles from home addresses doubled in March, with local purchases declining 12%.

Carwow believes that its findings should provide "some hope" to the automotive industry following data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which revealed that that new car sales had declined 44.4% in March due to the coronavirus lockdown.

James Hind, chief executive officer at Carwow, said: “With the removal of opportunity to go directly to dealerships to browse, services like Carwow provide a valuable pipeline to connect buyers to dealerships still open for business, at a time where they will be most open to looking beyond serving only local buyers, and looking at options for delivery.

“Carwow has seen most of our partner dealers sign up to show consumers they are offering video meetings, remote buying capabilities and that deliveries can be booked in for post-lockdown.

"Remote and online buying is a trend that has been growing over the last couple of years, but has been significantly accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, and we expect the appetite from consumers will last well after lockdown ends

“There is no doubt that the lockdown conditions, and the state of the economy when the restrictions are lifted, will have far reaching implications for the industry.

"It has never been more vital for the industry to work together to connect buyers to the cars available in a way that is safe and we hope that the innovation that we have already been seeing will continue to meet the demand that is still evident.”

Before the Government ordered its lockdown on all non-essential retail operations on March 24, Peter Vardy chief executive, Peter Vardy, highlighted the need for car retailers to be able to provide online car sales with the offer of a free three-month trial of his SilverBullet retail platform.

He said: “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re genuinely trying to help the sector out. For a lot of businesses there’s a sense that, if they are not able to transact online in the coming weeks and months, life will be extremely difficult for them.”

With most vehicle deliveries currently in lockdown, heycar said that the aim of most car retailers should be to "nurture" customer leads, however.

“Everyone knows inbound leads are going to continue to drop as the government has implemented further measures to halt the spread of the virus and keep our community safe,” said chief commercial officer, Karen Hilton.

“However, this situation will change and when it does dealers must be ready to build again."

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