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As the automotive retail sector tentatively opens its doors, not all dealerships are ready to offer customers a comprehensive range of services that conform to the reopening guidelines. While dealers must begin generating revenue once again, it is vital that services like test drives and vehicle maintenance can safely restart to support vehicle sales and reactivate aftersales departments, says AX. Fortunately, technology and well-designed software provide many of the answers as the sector evolves.

It is no surprise that since the government’s easing of the lockdown and the best-practice guidance drafted by the SMMT in consultation with dealers and manufacturers, vehicle retailers have been rushing to lay the foundations for how their businesses will operate in this very different environment. A new normal that is yet to be set in stone, but that will no doubt mean dealers must be more mobile.

With car sales falling by 97 per cent in April, every sale – be it new or used – is now vital. The problem is test drives are still popular with buyers, but many dealers do not have the tools to provide unaccompanied test drives in an efficient and safe manner. A paperless system can make things so much simpler, which is why the AX Manage software has seen a surge in interest. Technology like this can enable dealers to bring their services to the customer.

And now that unaccompanied test drives are all but mandatory, dealers want to be able to offer a seamless and safe service, says the provider of intelligent vehicle management and protection technologies, but they cannot afford to waste vital resources. Its solution combines a multi-platform diary system and quickly provides robust day-rate insurance cover – underwritten by Aviva that covers inclusion of trade plate use – while seamlessly carrying out DVLA licence checks. It also helps sales and aftersales personnel manage vehicle handovers safely with the option of electronic signatures to help avoid physical contact.  

The same fundamental issues apply to service, maintenance and repair, too. Many dealers and workshops are managing vehicle collections and drop-offs – with or without courtesy vehicles – using advanced vehicle management tools.

The industry guidance and best practice document produced by the SMMT, NFDA, dealers and manufacturers has further cemented the need for dealers to provide a safe and efficient ‘digital dealership’ services by helping to clarify the government’s recent statements.

While dealer enquiries for efficient ways to provide test drives in the current environment have risen, retailers are also looking to maximise the insights they can glean – by using telematics – to enable salespeople to help buyers choose the right car for the customer.

Vince Powell, Managing Director of AX Innovation, said “As the sector reboots this week, there has been a step change in sentiment and the latest guidelines from key industry bodies brings some very welcome clarity for the sector. Demand for our paperless services is rising fast, and we know consumers are receptive to the idea of unaccompanied test drives. Dealers are realising they need to offer an efficient and safe test drive service rapidly.

“The issue is that there’s a lot of paperwork, from insurance forms to DVLA checks and dealership form-filling, it is easier said than done. Throw in the fact that safety is the biggest concern for the industry, operationally it is quite tricky.

“But there are ways to make it much more straightforward and safer, with all the paperwork performed seamlessly on a customer’s driveway and only requiring a digital signature.”

As the economy opens again, vehicle dealerships have raised concerns about a small minority who might abuse the system to access vehicles without a salesperson present.

“In our experience, abuse of unaccompanied test drives is relatively rare but not making the most of them is common. In some ways an unaccompanied test drive can offer a much richer opportunity to engage with a customer than if you were in the car with them. By using telematics, salespeople can gain powerful insights into how and where buyers drive – this can be extremely useful in helping them choose the right car,” added Powell.  

For more information on AX Innovation services, including AX Manage software and day rate insurance, please visit: https://www.ax-uk.com/innovation  or call