“It’s exactly the right time for car showrooms to reinvent themselves”

Mike Rutherford made dozens of phone calls on the day car showrooms reopened, but got a mixture of positive and negative responses

I half expected car-showroom confusion and chaos on 1 June – the day sales executives dusted down the desks they’ve been unable to work from for months. But, after phoning dozens of franchised dealerships on the historic Monday in question, this prospective customer (I didn’t tell ’em I’m also a working journalist) was pleasantly surprised by the generally positive responses received. I’ve never known sales professionals to be more fired-up, friendly and accommodating.

That said, a handful couldn’t, wouldn’t, or were ‘too busy’ to pick up the phone. Almost as bad were out-of-date recorded messages. For example: “we’re closed” due to “government guidelines” that, in truth, no longer apply. Meanwhile, I was borderline offended when, at 4pm on a working Monday, I received a recorded rollicking from a leading retailer who insisted I was calling outside normal opening hours. This is how customers are lost – forever.

But my dipstick dealer of the day award went to the ‘salesman’ who answered the phone (so far, so good), before ordering me to E-mail my simple question/sales enquiries to a bloke called Ben, who may or may not get back to me. This, in the aftermath of April 2020 when new-car registrations were down 99.7 per cent year on year, followed by May when they were 89 per cent adrift! Unbelievable.

Also difficult to comprehend was that of all the sales professionals I spoke to, just one was female. But, on a more optimistic note, 80 per cent of sales execs who accepted my calls were on the case from the get-go, extremely keen and hungry (in some cases literally, I suspect) to sell me the model I wanted, not the version that would be most profitable for them. Each was cool with my withheld caller ID, plus my explanation that I wouldn’t be giving phone, E-mail and other details because I was merely making initial enquiries, not placing an order.

None of them mentioned any possible scrappage of my existing car. Good. They, like me, know that there could soon be a shortage of decent, affordable, used vehicles for sale to commuters who are seeking alternatives to our overcrowded trains and buses. Each said I’d be welcome to visit the showroom and, what’s more, that booking in advance wasn’t essential. On a related point, if a sales professional doesn’t grant you a Covid-friendly solo test drive (after leaving your car and ID as collateral), go shop elsewhere. There are precisely 6,188 main dealer sales outlets to choose from in the UK, so you’re spoilt for choice.

Car retailers have just suffered the fright of their commercial lives – the bleakest time ever for the motor trade. Sadly, the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining ain’t so. But there is some truth in the saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I just hope this applies to the down-but-not-out franchised dealer network of Britain. As we approach the halfway point of this pandemic-stricken 2020, it’s exactly the right time for car showrooms to reinvent themselves. It’s now or never. So let’s make it now, can we?

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

Recommended

Pothole-related breakdowns hit three-year high
Potholes
News

Pothole-related breakdowns hit three-year high

RAC patrols attended an average of 27 pothole-related breakdowns each day in 2021 – a total of 10,123 throughout the year
14 Jan 2022
UK petrol and diesel prices: petrol stations urged to make price cuts
Kia Niro long-term - petrol station
News

UK petrol and diesel prices: petrol stations urged to make price cuts

Retailers are pocketing bigger margins on petrol and diesel, instead of passing on the 12p per litre oil price cut
6 Jan 2022
UK new car sales: registrations up 1% in 2021, but EV and van sales grow rapidly
Corsa-e
News

UK new car sales: registrations up 1% in 2021, but EV and van sales grow rapidly

The Ford Transit is the UK's best-selling vehicle; Vauxhall Corsa tops list of best-selling cars and Tesla Model 3 takes second
6 Jan 2022
London Congestion Charge explained
Congestion Charge
Tips & advice

London Congestion Charge explained

All the facts about the £15 charge for driving into central London including a map, how to pay and how to check if you need to...
16 Dec 2021

Most Popular

'The best car in the world is Korean'
Opinion Mike Rutherford
Opinion

'The best car in the world is Korean'

Mike Rutherford praises Hyundai and Kia's joint win in Best Cars of the Year
16 Jan 2022
Kia EV6 vs Volkswagen ID.4 GTX: 2022 group test review
Kia EV6 vs VW ID.4 GTX - main
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

Kia EV6 vs Volkswagen ID.4 GTX: 2022 group test review

The Kia EV6 and Volkswagen ID.4 GTX deliver sportiness to the electric SUV sector - but which does it best?
15 Jan 2022
Top 10 best hybrid cars to buy 2022
Best hybrid cars - header image
Hybrid cars

Top 10 best hybrid cars to buy 2022

Hybrid power is the way forward if the car industry is to be believed so we've found the top 10 best hybrid cars to buy now...
2 Jan 2022