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Dealers unable to offer test drives due to vehicle supply problems

More than a fifth (21%) of in-market new car buyers have been unable to test drive vehicles they are interested in, according to a new study by What Car?.

Dealers have cited a lack of vehicle availability or very long waiting lists as the reason that test drives cannot take place.

The research comes after Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures showed vehicle production levels in the UK in August reached their lowest point since the 1956 Suez crisis, as the ongoing microchip shortage caused manufacturers to cut manufacturing numbers and adjust vehicle specifications. 

New car sales declined by 22%, to 68,033, last month, after the UK suffered its worst August sales performance since 2013.

So far this year, UK new car registrations remain up 20.3%, although this is measured against the COVID-hit 2020 market, when showrooms were closed for much of the year.

The chance to test drive a vehicle is crucial for the majority of UK car buyers, as 58% told What Car? they would not buy their next car without one. Just 5% of respondents were comfortable buying a car outright without conducting a test drive.

Steve Huntingford, editor, What Car?, said: “Though demand is outstripping supply in the current market environment, test drives remain a crucial part of the car buying journey for the majority. As our research shows, buyers aren’t willing to shortcut their vehicle purchase if they can’t organise a test drive, making it important for dealers to continue trying to accommodate test drive requests, even as stock levels diminish.”

Demand in the market remains strong, however, with 35% of all in-market buyers telling What Car? they are looking to purchase a vehicle in the next four weeks, while 29% are set to buy within one to three months.

More than half (59%) expect to have their next car delivered within eight weeks of placing an order, with 41% switching to a vehicle from another maker if their delivery time expectations cannot be met. 

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