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A third of car buyers remain cautious about visiting dealerships, survey reveals

Karolina Edwards-Smajda

Auto Trader research has said that a third of car buyers remain cautious about visiting a dealership, despite healthy levels of demand which look set to continue.

Over a third (35%) of more than 6,300 survey respondents said they were planning on a purchasing a car in the next three months, more than half (51%) within the next 12 months and nearly one-in-five (19%) within the next two weeks.

When Auto Trader also assessed how comfortable car buyers were in visiting a dealership in person, however, while more than half of respondents (53%) said they would either be likely (38%) or very likely (15%) to visit, over a third (37%) were unlikely (24%), or very unlikely (13%) to visit.

Karolina Edwards-Smajda, commercial product director at Auto Trader, said: “Whilst it may not remain at the record levels we’re currently observing on our marketplace, it is extremely reassuring to see that a high level of consumer demand is set to continue.

“The key outtake for us is that whilst demand is high, retailers can’t lose sight of the fact that today’s retail landscape is not the same as it was pre-lockdown - showrooms may have reopened, but that doesn’t mean car buyers want to visit them.

"There’s been a seismic rebalance of the retail model over the last 11 weeks and the digital forecourt has never been more influential in the car buying journey.”

In May, Auto Trader invested in a multi-million-pound marketing campaign to help re-ignite the car industry for when lockdown restrictions at the start of June.

The digital marketing supplier is also offering a 25% discount throughout June and extending its double stock offer until at least July 16. 

The research also revealed that 36% of consumers would feel more comfortable purchasing a vehicle over the phone or online with home delivery, 19% said home test drives would make the buying experience more comfortable, 14% identified good safety measures implemented at the dealership, and 5% said video test drives.

Just 8% said they wouldn’t be comfortable with any of these measures.

Auto Trader also found that 42% of consumers are looking to replace an existing car, whilst 41.5% are buying as they currently don’t have a car or they require an extra vehicle, 16.5% wanted to avoid public transport, was their reason for buying a car.

In a seperate study, Transport Focus found that 60% of respondents would rather drive than use public transport once travel restrictions are lifted, potentially presenting an opportunity for car dealers to sell more cars. 

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