Car dealers go digital to sell in lockdown

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CAR dealers are beefing up their online drive to win orders for next year as showrooms remain physically closed under COVID-19 restrictions.

November is a key month for people to order their cars for early-New-Year collection. But with conventional salesrooms closed, the only option for many dealers now is to use enhanced digital platforms to encourage and facilitate potential buyers.

That has led to keen competition for potential new-car buyers online as systems are in place to do a deal on approximate trade-in value, finance, car spec and type without ever going into a garage.

The digital option is growing exponentially and, while it is still too early to say how forward orders are shaping up, it is highlighted as a big growth area in the latest Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) report on sales.

The report’s buying figures make for glum reading for the industry in general and individual dealers in particular with year-to-date registrations down 25.2pc (to 86,870) compared with 116,124 last year. October registrations are up 6.2pc but they are based on what are traditionally small volumes at this time of the year.

Significantly, used-car imports have nose-dived in 2020 since a NOx tax was imposed from January last. It has had the effect of pricing older cars, especially diesels, out of the market. Imports fell by 18.7pc last month but are down a substantial 37.7pc (to 58,504) so far in 2020, according to the SIMI statistics.

Electric vehicle sales, meanwhile, are up 20.09pc this year to 3,867. It is a long way from government targets but significant nonetheless is the fact that for the second month in a row, the Volkswagen ID. 3 electric car, was the overall top-selling vehicle in October.

And the most popular brands for the first 10 months were: 1. Volkswagen 2. Toyota 3. Hyundai 4. Skoda 5. Ford – with the five best-selling models being the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Focus and Hyundai Kona.
Diesel commands a 43.1pc share of the market with petrol on 37.12pc, hybrid 11.93pc, electric 4.45pc, and plug-in hybrid (2.78pc).

In the report, SIMI director general Brian Cooke emphasised how retailers have been enhancing their online presence with November such a key month for forward orders.

He highlighted how manufacturers and retailers are already offering “generous incentives” for customers to buy new. But, he said, with the ongoing impact of COVID and the impending Brexit deadline fast approaching it was “vital that the Government continue to support business in this uncertain trading environment”.

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