‘Car makers have much to learn from poor April sales figures’

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler wonders why it’s taken the coronavirus crisis for more manufactures to embrace online buying

Anyone expecting anything other than a near total wipeout in car sales during April must be living in cloud cuckoo land. The 97 per cent drop in registrations is woeful news for an industry already in the doldrums, but there are clear learnings for the future of retail.

Surprisingly, the appetite for car buying – or at least taking delivery of an already-ordered new car – didn’t disappear completely during April. But no car makers were geared up to be able to complete purchases and make deliveries during lockdown – except one: Tesla.

We’d already predicted that Tesla would top the UK car sales charts in April because, quite simply, it was the only manufacturer set up for online ordering and delivery long before the outbreak of the pandemic.

One reader sent me pictures of him taking delivery of his new Tesla Model 3, and described the online order process and contactless handover as ‘the future’.

So it’s no surprise to see other car makers rapidly playing catch up. Jaguar Land Rover, for example, has just announced the full roll-out of its own online buying system. So you can now configure, negotiate, finance and part-ex via the Jaguar and Land Rover websites.

Dealers, too, are rapidly adapting handover bays to contactless deliveries, while in some cases you’ll be able to have your new car left for you on your driveway.

JLR’s UK MD, Rawdon Glover, took me through the process, which includes video consultations, and it is very impressive – the right system at the right time.

Glover couldn’t tell me how many JLR buyers he expected to buy online. I suspect he – and the retailers that fulfil the purchases – will be surprised how many people take it up. Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s bought a car solely online – including those who buy used through the likes of Buyacar – only ever has good things to say about it. But it does beg the usual question: what’s taken so many car makers so long?

Do you agree with Steve? Let us know your thoughts below...

Recommended

'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'
Opinion

'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'

Mike Rutherford thinks the new Pop-Up Motor Show can be the perfect way to serve the demands of Britain's car users
11 Oct 2020
'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'
Opinion

'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'

Mike Rutherford thinks cars from Gerry McGovern and Marek Reichman are favourites to win design award
30 Aug 2020
'VW Group management shake-up could be crucial to the car choice facing UK buyers'
Opinion

'VW Group management shake-up could be crucial to the car choice facing UK buyers'

Deputy editor John McIlroy points to outgoing Skoda boss as a key reason for the firm's success
15 Jul 2020
"Despite the tragedy of 2020 so far, several intriguing developments emerged in the final week of June"
Opinion

"Despite the tragedy of 2020 so far, several intriguing developments emerged in the final week of June"

Mike Rutherford recounts some significant stories that may have passed you by in recent weeks
12 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Renault could cut UK models in no deal Brexit profit drive
News

Renault could cut UK models in no deal Brexit profit drive

Renault’s new CEO says the firm is examining the possibility of reducing the range of models it offers to UK buyers as it aims to boost profitability
20 Oct 2020
The end of 70mph motorways? Study shows huge reduction in pollution at 50mph
Speed limit to be cut to 60mph on M1
News

The end of 70mph motorways? Study shows huge reduction in pollution at 50mph

Trial on Welsh roads shows 47 per cent drop in pollution when 50mph limits were introduced; Highways England already has plans to reduce limits to tac…
10 Oct 2020
New BMW 5 Series 2020 review
BMW 5 Series Saloon

New BMW 5 Series 2020 review

Have updates made the BMW 5 Series even better? We try out the new M550i xDrive to find out…
20 Oct 2020