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LEADING car subscription operator Carly is closely watching the Melbourne car market for increased sign-ups as the city gets on top of Covid-19 infections and heads positively towards more easing of lockdown restrictions.

The company says that it has noted both in Victoria, as well as in other states, a pattern where increased confidence in the opening up of the economy of each state correlates to increased enquiries on the Carly subscriber website.

Carly CEO Chris Noone told GoAutoNews Premium: “We are almost able to track consumer sentiment by inquiries and traffic to our website. As people were more confident, they were looking for our cars. As they were less confident they pulled back from that a little bit.

“So when we look at our figures, we can almost see a barometer of how people are feeling in society and how they’re feeling about the economy. We have been noticing that, in the past few weeks, New South Wales and Queensland have been growing in terms of enquiries.

“So we are seeing that level of confidence and anticipation with people looking to get out there and get back into vehicles. It is almost an inverse relationship to the curve that people are seeing about infections. As the infections come down, we see our enquiries go up.

“More recently, we’ve seen Victoria increase in enquiries.”

He said that the company has pinpointed Victoria as a key market as the prospect of easing lockdown measures in Melbourne increases.

“Victorians have been living under some of the tightest restrictions ever imposed in Australia, so they are no doubt eager to move on from lockdown imposed by Covid-19.

“Flexible, low-risk business models such as the car subscription service provided by Carly offer Victorians an alternative to conventional car purchase as they adjust to the ‘new normal’.

“Following Victoria’s first lockdown period, Carly experienced a 45 per cent increase in car subscription enquiries as Victorians appreciated the financial flexibility a car subscription offers. We are expecting a similar response as they emerge from the latest lockdown,” Mr Noone said.

Chris Noone

He said that in spite of the lockdown, most existing subscribers in Victoria continued.

“People have the option to terminate the subscription. But most of them haven’t. In the first lockdown, we saw a few cancellations. But the second time we have seen fewer cancellations.

“We have seen that the level of enquiries and bookings in Victoria over the past few months has been lower but now it is starting to pick up and it’s coming up to the levels of New South Wales and Queensland.

In Melbourne, where people cannot walk into a dealership, Carly is offering delivery of cars.

“We have the exempt worker status to be able to do that. We have a logistics facility where we can store and manage the handover of those cars as well. So we do have additional services available for people in Victoria, because there’ll be a number of people who are restricted in their movements.

“They still need a car to go shopping or go to work. So we’re trying to help them as much as possible.”

He said that the increase of 120,000 Melburnians being allowed back to work in manufacturing “may open up an opportunity where they suddenly realise they need a car”.

Mr Noone said Carly was actively engaging with dealers in Melbourne seeking an alternative pathway to sales while their showrooms are closed.

“The number of calls and video meetings we’ve had with dealers has actually been increasing in the last six weeks or so. So we went through a little bit of a quiet patch with dealers worrying about all the things they needed to address in the short term but now we find that a lot of them are looking more towards the future.

“We have deals bubbling away in Victoria where dealers have definitely turned towards the future rather than still worrying about the present.

“The good thing about our product is that we do all the marketing for the dealers. So the dealer doesn’t actually have to spend any money to generate the business. We bring the business to them. And we’re bringing them a group of customers who wouldn’t be normally walking into their dealership,” Mr Noone said.

Some highlights from recent Carly research:

  • 39 per cent of Victorians would consider car subscription for their next vehicle
  • Of those Victorians, 19 per cent would be more likely to choose car subscription (over purchasing, leasing or taking out a loan) now vs 6 months ago pre-pandemic.
  • Almost half of Victorians (49 per cent) say the most important feature of car subscription is that ‘all car running expenses are included – no surprises or additional costs’.
  • There was a 45 per cent increase in enquiries by Victorians following the first lockdown in June-July 2020 (vs enquiries pre-lockdown Jan-Feb).

By John Mellor