How car dealers are preparing to do business in post-lockdown NZ
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Post-lockdown, and in the longer term beyond the Covid-19 crisis, the car-retailing industry is looking to a future where business is much less about tyre kicking and much more about mouse clicking.
New Zealand dealerships are already fast-tracking technology to help prepare for the new buying environment to come.
It’s an extension of what the company was already offering, but also a byproduct of Turners’ new status as a supplier of vehicles to essential workers during the lockdown.
“We’d already figured out to sell online and deliver a car - we’ve had a Buy Now function for a few years,” says Turners general manager of marketing Sean Wiggans. “But we’ve never really pushed it.
“When Covid-19 started happening, we thought if people really are worried, there’s a way that we can do this: [sell and deliver] without anybody touching anything.
“We were about to launch that when the lockdown happened.”
As an essential business, Turners can still sell and deliver a car to essential workers during the lockdown, using those same online tools.
Essential workers can put the $500 down for a chosen vehicle and follow the process right through to full payment and delivery. The steps are outlined on Turners’ website.
Non-essential customers can only go as far as paying the deposit to put a vehicle on hold until the lockdown is over. But this process is still a sign of things to come.
“Many people are being forced to use new technology working at home and that’ll make them more confident.
“Our research tells us that the more confidence you can give people, the more uptake you get. You can see that with e-commerce stores – if you don’t like something, you just return it. Many sellers will even pay the postage for the return. It’s risk-free online buying.
“So if we have confidence in what we’re doing, we should have confidence that people aren’t going to return a car - because we sold them a good one in the first place. “
While large purchases are off the agenda for many in the current environment, those looking to buy a vehicle post-lockdown will arguably never find a better deal: Turners has discounted a total of $5m off the price of over 2200 vehicles (until April 20) and “hundreds” are at cost or less, says Wiggans.
Other dealerships are also accelerating reserve-online functions. Australasian company Ad Torque Edge (ATE) provides marketing and online support to dealerships, including website design and administration.
ATE has been curating a similar service for its car-industry clients in Australia: website functionality that allows customers to hold on a car with one mouse-click, then book the dealership to bring the test drive to them.
One of ATE’s largest NZ customers, Andrew Simms, has been trialling a Hold This Car function on its website for some time.
“Things have changed very quickly now that we’re in lockdown,” says ATE NZ general manager for Todd Fuller.
“But that idea of a deposit to hold a car is getting a lot of interest again, because there’s a belief that [in the future] people will be much more interested in buying online.
“For us, it’s a good time to get dealers set up so they’re ready to go when the lockdown is over.
“It’s just an opportunity [for a customer] to know they’ve secured the deal and that it’s just a matter of time before the dealership can come to them.
Similar online tools will be used for another service that’s already on offer in Australia via ATE clients: dealership technicians will come to a customer’s house, take a car away for a service or repairs and return it sanitised.
“We were putting that in place before the lockdown. Now we’re talking to dealers about getting themselves set up, so that when we go back to Level 3 they can start that service.
(A similar “touchless” repair service is currently being offered in NZ by a company called BookMyCar, which uses a network of vetted mechanics.)
“We were doing all of this before Covid-19,” says Fuller. “We were already going down that path, knowing there would be more online interaction around buying cars than ever before.
“Now we believe that’s going to be fast-tracked.”