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November brings first new and used car order decline since June

James Hill, managing director of Dealerweb

Car retailers across the UK suffered their first new and used car order decline since June during a COVID-19 ‘Lockdown 2’ impacted November, according to Dealerweb.

With England’s second national lockdown period coming to an end, signalling the re-opening of car showrooms yesterday (December 2) and publication of the latest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) registrations data due in days, the lead management specialist revealed the impact of the stringent trading restrictions.

Its study of data from 800 retailers across the UK showed new car orders down by 30% and used car orders down 39.5% against the same month last year, adding that enquiries also saw a reduction of 32% for new and 28% for used.

The November period was also impacted by the Welsh 'firebreak' and trading restrictions in Scotland, which were recently heightened as 11 council areas entered the nation's top, Tier 4, mitigation level.

A month ago, the SMMT reported that England's COVID-19 'Lockdown 2' and the Welsh 'firebreak' are set to result in the UK’s weakest new car sales performance since 1982, following a 1.6% decline during October.

James Hill, the managing director of Dealerweb, said: “Both new and used sales have performed strongly since the end of the first lockdown, but it was inevitable that a second national lockdown would have a negative impact on orders.

“Interestingly the conversion rate of orders to enquiries dropped on used cars, perhaps reflecting the inability of customers to see, touch and drive before they buy.”

Dealerweb moved quickly in March to help dealers through a lockdown and meet the requirements of social distancing with a range of new tools.

The company has seen the use of electronic signatures increase as dealers give buyers the flexibility to either complete the purchase at home or in the showroom.

Lockdown 2 also prompted the likes of Auto Trader and CarGurus to axe fees and expand their contactless retail tools to help dealers continue to trade, while heycar vowed to foot the bill for vehicle deliveries to customers until the end of 2020 as part of a bid to support car dealers’ online retail efforts during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

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