With the rise of online car buying platforms like Haycar and Cazoo, it raises the question if the current model of physical dealer premises will soon become an element of the past. The short answer to that question, is no.

Market research consultancy, My View Research, carried out an independent study into consumer car buying behaviour, to find out how the general public feel about buying a car online and if physical car dealer premises are something the majority still want to see. 283 participants took part in the study with 79% saying that they purchased their last car from a dealer. When asked what their preferred method of engagement would be if they were to purchase their next car within the next 24 months, 70% expressed that they will visit a dealer, followed by 13% who were undecided. Only 2% commented that they would research the car online, buy without viewing and have the car delivered to them.

Participants were asked about the latest model of car buying being more of an online transaction, with the option of having your car delivered directly to your door without any in-person viewing or test drive. When asked ‘Do you think that the automotive industry should adapt to an online business model, where you purchase online and have the car delivered directly to you?’ the majority, 60%, said no, with some of the participants agreeing ‘test driving a car and seeing it in reality is part of the experience.’ One individual amusingly commented, ‘There is no substitute for sitting in the vehicle.’ ‘Marketing information rarely says, “If you are over 6’2” your head will be squished against the roof,” “there is nowhere to rest your foot when not on the clutch,” “your arse is too fat for the seat.”

When asked ‘Do you feel there is still a need to have as many physical dealer locations as there are now, in virtually every town?’ 68% of participants said yes.

As part of profiling the study, participants were asked to comment on their age range to identify if there was a correlation between age and the preference to purchasing a car online, as opposed to visiting a dealer. The general opinion is that millennials have boosted the online economy with their preference to purchasing online. But does the same opinion apply when buying a car? Interestingly, no it doesn’t. 64% of participants aged 18-25 stated that they will visit a dealer to purchase their next car, with 73% of participants aged 25-35 saying the same.

The effects of the pandemic were also noted and how this has concerned the purchase of the participants next vehicle. Not surprisingly, only 25% of participants purchased a new or used car during 2020 and only 32% plan to purchase their next car in 2021. The study also showed that the majority of participants, 45%, typically change their car every 3-5 years, followed by 26% every 5-10 years, but those who would have normally changed this year, will be putting this off for another year or two. So, whilst the pandemic may affect car sales for the short term, the good news is that car dealers will need to keep their showroom doors open, at least for now.

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