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Auctions remain a no-go zone for 23% of car dealers post-lockdown

Cars at Manheim auction

COVID-19 has rendered physical car auctions a no-go zone for 23% of car retailers in the short- to medium-term, Cox Automotive’ s latest dealer sentiment survey has revealed.

In questions focused on stock acquisition plans almost a quarter indicated that they planned to either decrease or stop attending altogether in the short to medium term, with that figure remaining 11% when asked about their longer-term intentions.

Two-fifths of dealers told Cox that they have increased their use of digital auction platforms due to lockdown, with 49% of those indicating this will be a long-term change.

Just 7% of those surveyed said they had no intention to buy digitally, while one-in-five said they’re going online in the short-term but will return to physical as soon as possible.

Commenting on the findings of Cox’s remarketing-themed sentiment survey responses, Philip Nothard, Cox’s customer insight and strategy director, said: “Half of the dealers who responded were using online platforms prior to Covid-19, but there’s no doubt the lockdown has accelerated adoption amongst those yet to embrace digital auctions. For a sizeable proportion, the survey indicates that this usage will continue to become the ‘new normal’.

“However, it’s also evident that when auction halls can safely reopen, plenty will be keen to once again be back in the lanes.

“Despite the inherent efficiency and convenience of digital channels, the social interaction, hands on access, and pure theatre of the physical auction remains a powerful attraction.”

Cox Automotive re-started Manheim's car auction operations via its online sales platform last month following “weeks of careful planning and implementation of the necessary safety measures”.

The move came the day after online stocking portal Motorway recommenced its daily online auctions following a COVID-19 enforced closure.

News of the trend towards digital auctions came as fellow remarketing specialist, Aston Barclay, announced that a limited number of car traders would be allowed to view vehicles at its auction sites, prior to sales, by appointment only.

However, it said that, despite the changed policies, its auction programme would continue in its purely online format, with no physical buyers present.

All buyers will report to auction reception and will only be allowed to enter once they have been through the check-in process, a statement said, adding: “Aston Barclay believes it is too early to host physical sales.

Neil Hodson, Aston Barclay’s group chief executive, said: “(Today) will be the first time we have welcomed any customers onto our sites for 11 weeks.

“In our minds, 15 June is too soon to welcome buyers to a physical auction with social distancing measures still in force.

Hodson said that Aston Barclay recognised that buyers may want to see vehicles prior to bidding in online sales, but added that a decision on the hosting of physical sales in the future would depend on the success of a two-week trial under its new operating model.

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