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After a series of lockdowns that has seen an increasing number of car buyers move online, research by Close Brothers Motor Finance reveals that 46 per cent of dealers are concerned about the rise in online sales.

Within the Dealer Satisfaction Survey, a third of dealers were worried about the corresponding knock-on effect to dealerships. With more customers researching and purchasing cars online rather than visiting a dealership showroom, dealers are at risk of losing out on customer referrals that are typically gained through excellent service with a dealer in person.

Yet despite the concerns, 58 per cent of dealers have responded to the pressures of the pandemic which caused showroom doors to close by increasing investment in their websites and social media to meet the demand across digital platforms.

Although car buying patterns have undeniably shifted over the years to become progressively more digitised, showrooms remain vital as only one in eight customers would be happy to purchase a car from start to finish without first seeing the vehicle.

“In this day where almost everything has moved online, it can only be expected that the car buying industry would do the same.

However, dealer showrooms are still incredibly important, not only for the test drives that simply cannot be replicated online, but the in-person experience that goes hand in hand with making a significant investment in a new car. It’s finding the balance between new technologies and face-to-face customer service that will enhance the car buying experience.”

Vince Powell, Managing Director of AX Innovation

AX’s own research found 91 per cent of car buyers still see the test drive as a crucial part of the car buying journey, and almost two thirds want unaccompanied test drives to become the norm post-COVID.

Technologies such as AX’s unaccompanied test drive software are a powerful sales tool for dealerships and now, with the publication of new COVID-19 guidance from the SMMT, they’ve become the only safe way for customers to try out a vehicle before purchase.