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Car buyers happy to visit showrooms as COVID-19 lockdown eases, survey finds

Neil Addley, managing director at JudgeService

JudgeService has found tht the majority of customers are happy to visit car showrooms in person if COVID-19 safety measures have been put in place.

The online customer review provider surveyed people who bought a car in May last year (2019) or the year before (2018) and received 700 responses - many of which indicated a willingness to shop in showrooms once again.

After car dealerships re-opened their doors to customers yesterday (June 1), retailers told AM that initial trading was strong, with walk-in customers happy to pay them a visit.

The results of JudgeService's survey found that around 20% of respondents identified as being at high-risk of getting ill from coronavirus and were more reticent about visiting dealerships.

However, nearly 22% of them said they would be happy to do so in person if social distancing rules were observed, with this number rising to nearly 35% among those who were not at risk.

Car retailers across the UK have been working hard to make their showrooms safe havens for car buyers, with AM Award-winning Devonshire Motors among those using marketing channels to reassure customers through its 'Stay Safe' initiative.

JudgeService revealed there was also hope for retailers keen to kick-on in their pursuit of online trading, however, with a marked increase in people willing to buy a car online this year.

Neil Addley, managing director at JudgeService, said: “This survey shows that the interest is there from people still wanting to service and change their car as they have always done.

"As dealerships begin to re-open, the focus has to be on reassuring customers that safety is a priority. It’s also imperative that companies react to the rise in demand for online sales and service bookings.”

JudgeService says it wanted to find out more about how people felt about returning to dealerships as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

The company found that people’s propensity to change their car was not significantly affected by the coronavirus crisis, as nearly a fifth (19.08%) of respondents said they would have changed their car within the next 12 months under normal circumstances.

When considering whether they would change their car in the current situation, this figure dropped only slightly to 16.82%.

Meanwhile, over 20% of not-at-risk respondents said they would consider buying online, compared to just 5% a year ago.

Of those, 10.58% would buy online with home delivery and a further 10.58% would buy online with a socially distanced click and collect option. Among those surveyed who were high risk, 17% said they would buy online.

With the crisis putting on hold many non-urgent servicing appointments, the research also showed people were keen to have their car serviced soon, providing the process was safe. 28% of customers not at risk and 21% of those at high risk said they wanted to have their car serviced as soon as they can.

Among the not-at-risk group, 60% said they would be happy to book a service online or over the phone and to collect or have delivery. Only 20% wanted to wait to book a service until the pandemic is over, with this figure rising to 30% among people who are high risk.

Addley said: “We expected there to be some changes in attitude this year because of the current situation, but some of the figures we found have surprised us.

"It will be interesting to see how those intentions translate to sales over the coming months."

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