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CarGurus adds to UK focus as COVID-19 prompts international withdrawals

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CarGurus has asserted that its operations in the UK market remain a priority as it prepares to “wind-down” its business in Germany, Spain and Italy amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The US-based online marketing specialist, which launched in the UK in December 2015, said in a statement today (April 17) that it now intends to focus its attentions on the UK and Canada as its only international markets.

“As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we continue to evaluate measures that our company can take now to manage through this challenging business climate and emerge even stronger,” the business said.

“Today, we announced our prioritisation of the UK and Canada in our international market development, including focusing more of our resources and investments on driving growth and innovation in these core international markets.

“This includes accelerating site improvements and product development to benefit consumers and dealers as we continue to build our audience and seek to drive exceptional ROI for our dealer customers.”

As part of its wind-down of operations in other international markets, CarGurus said that it was also placing any other expansion into new territories on hold.

The CarGurus statement added: “We know these are uncertain times for all of us. But even amidst the challenges of COVID-19, we continue to see great opportunity in the UK and Canada with our innovative approach and trusted, transparent marketplace.

“Focusing our international efforts and investments in these core markets allows us to drive further innovation as we continue to serve consumers and deliver substantial value for our dealer customers.”

Earlier this month CarGurus extended a 50% discount on car dealer marketing subscriptions into May as it looked to show its support for UK car retailers battling with the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown.

Yesterday (April 16), the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, announced that the UK lockdown would now continue for "at least" another three weeks.

CarGurus has already taken steps to evolve its online offering to car retailers in light of the pandemic.

This week it announced the introduction of new filtering and vehicle description features which can be applied to retailers’ inventory on to highlight their ability to complete sales safely, in a contact-free fashion.

Dealerships can opt into any or all of the following services:

  • Social Distancing Appointments – Dealers can schedule appointments with consumers to visit their dealerships and confirm specific timing to ensure social distancing. 
  • Virtual Appointments – Consumers can schedule a virtual meeting with a dealership to conduct a virtual walk-around of the vehicle.
  • Contactless Purchase – Buyers can either pay for or finance a vehicle remotely, by either phone or email, and any paperwork will be delivered to them.
  • Free Test Drive at Home – In up to a 25-mile radius, vehicles can be brought to a consumer’s home so they can safely test drive it with no commitment to purchase.
  • Free Home Drop Off – In up to a 25-mile radius, a dealer will deliver a vehicle and the associated paperwork to those consumers that commit to purchasing it.

“Trust is an essential component to everything we do at CarGurus, and it is the foundation of our relationship with both car buyers and our dealer partners. This has not changed as we all navigate this new COVID-19 environment together,” said Wendy Harris, CarGurus' vice-president of European sales.

“We have moved quickly to provide new tools and functionality to enable those buyers looking to purchase a car to find dealers able to provide one along with safe, contactless purchase options.”

A spokesman for CarGurus told AM that, while the business accepts that some car retail operations may have ceased sales during the COVID-19 lockdown period, its new range of contactless trading tools would “put dealers on the right track for a time when lockdown measures are lifted”.

He said: “It’s likely that the trading environment will have changed and it’s important that we all adapt to serve customers in the safest way and a way that they feel most comfortable with.”

AM reported yesterday (April 16) that online car retail operation Cazoo has continued to sell and deliver vehicles to customers during lockdown – offering a £250 discount to NHS workers.

The online disruptor – the subject of a retailer face-to-face interview in the April edition of AM magazine – told AM that it would continue to sell vehicles to “those who need to keep moving”, suggesting that sales were not limited to key workers during the lockdown period.

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