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THE pandemic has been the catalyst for more than 50 per cent of vehicles in Europe now sold using sales tools on some form of online channel. Buoyed by the trend, OEMs are now rolling out new sales structures in Europe and beyond.

OEMs and dealers had been quick to adopt online sales tools in 2020 and although new-car sales in Europe plunged 29.6 per cent in the year, researchers ECG Business Intelligence found that the number of sales made via online sales platforms rocketed by 645 per cent.

ECG said that the use of an online sales channel – not simply the dealer or OEMs website – was involved in 53 per cent of new-car purchases in Europe in 2020.

“That could include relatively simple digital implementation, such as a ‘click-and-collect’ arrangement online with handover at dealers, right through to arranging for alternative or home delivery,” ECG said.

“While the vast majority of these online delivery arrangements were organised through dealers, in some cases OEMs have arranged direct delivery and that is a trend that may accelerate further.”

ECG found that the ease of purchasing online resulted in an estimated 20 per cent of new-car buyers in Europe choosing home delivery.

It said that home delivery was a broad term and was generally an informal arrangement between the dealer and buyer.

However, it said that as the process becomes more common, vehicle logistics providers have also risen to the situation and looked to introduce home delivery services.

“In May 2020, French logistics supplier Gefco began delivering new Ford vehicles direct to customers under its Moveecar service,” it said.

“Another method used under home delivery is if the customer agrees to pay for a car hauler for the bespoke delivery of the new car.

“In future, direct delivery arranged by OEMs – through the agency model (see separate article) – could also involve a more coordinated logistics service using carriers to multiple locations.”

ECG said its research found that 33.8 per cent of online buyers chose to click and collect, another byproduct of COVID to minimise social interaction. This was a rapid increase from an estimated five to six per cent of the market in 2019.

ECG said the pandemic made physical visits to showrooms “a very different experience” including the need to pre-book appointments.

“But well before COVID, OEMs were increasingly looking to turn dealerships into ‘experience centres’,” the researcher said.

“This concept has of course been long pioneered by Tesla and had also been touted by Volkswagen pre-COVID for the launch of the ID.3 and ID.4 electric vehicles in Europe.”

The Alliance of Europe Car Dealers and Repairers (AECDR) in Europe said that OEMs invariably distribute their branded vehicles to consumers through selective distribution networks.

“A number of OEMs are (now) exploring agency arrangements and direct/online sales alongside their independent dealers. This trend is only likely to increase in the wake of the COVID pandemic,” the AECDR said.

By Neil Dowling

AdTorque Edge