In our Under the Bonnet series we seek out the opinions of movers and shakers in the used-car market – those that have been there, done it and got the oil-stained t-shirt. From leading car dealers, to manufacturers and top finance brokers, we get under the bonnet to discuss the news, views and market trends that are shaping our industry’s future.
In this week’s instalment we speak to Steve Rogers from Maundrell and Co. to find out what the future for car dealerships hold, how the move online will affect the industry and the impact Brexit is having.
As a car dealer in the grips of the digital revolution/move online, what are your biggest challenges and concerns?
My biggest challenge, as someone that has been in the car business for 30 years, is adapting to the new areas of the motor trade; namely, understanding social media. We’re quite good at advertising online and we pay particular attention to how we advertise our cars. We use ‘CitNOW’ technology to send each customer that makes an enquiry a personal video presentation on our cars, and we’ve found that piece of technology very successful.
More and more people only come to see the car when they drive it away. Eight or nine years ago most people came to look at the car, now at least 50% of people are happy to see a good video, be sent the right documentation, will hand over a deposit and only arrive to collect the car.
What does the future for car dealerships hold?
If you’re not up to speed with the digital and online stuff it will be very difficult to market your cars. I hope we are not just heading down a road of more and more people buying cars on websites, and never visiting a dealer. I don’t think that will happen. I do think initial interactions will move online, but it will still be important to host customers in a dealership and for them to meet the people they’re buying from, as well as the standard of after sales service they can expect.
Does the gradual move online concern you? If so, why?
My main concern is that advertising a car online doesn’t give you the chance to represent your business very well. The first thing we do when a customer arrives on site… well the very first thing we do is give them a tea or a coffee and a piece of cake, obviously – and you can’t get that online! Joking apart: we take them around, we show them the showroom, the workshop, we introduce them to our fully-trained technicians who look after the cars, our professional car detailers – one who is ex-Ferrari and one who used to work with Formula 1 teams. The point being: we have a very good process here onsite. All that carries a cost, and it means that our cars are better prepared than others.
When you’re just looking at an image on the internet you don’t see all that. You see an image and you see the price. It can be difficult for us to get the message across that we are not just a ‘Fred in the shed’ – we have 16 staff, all the latest equipment, and all that adds value for the buyer. When buying a secondhand car there is always some risk – what if something goes wrong? We have good back ups, loan cars, a good after sale service – people don’t necessarily see that on the internet. But they will see it if they come to visit us. Our biggest concern is how to sell our services online.
In what ways has your dealership evolved in the last few years? What’s the biggest change you have noticed?
We’ve been trying to engage more with our customers. We do things like ‘track days’, where we hire a motor racing circuit and invite customers along to drive their car on a track. One thing you can do to combat people’s choices on the internet is to engage with your customers more, for instance by hosting ‘track days’, or a car and coffee morning, where you are doing something for your customers and not looking to make money out of it. You’re not looking for a point of sale, you’re looking to make a connection between your brand and customer. I’ve seen many more specialist dealers doing that. Ten years ago you never would have seen an advert for a coffee morning at a dealership – now lots of major branches and specialists do it. And now, we can use social media to invite a lot of people along to an event.
You need to be reaching out to customers, doing something for them and giving them a reason to talk about you. I think that maybe 80 or 90% of people who attended our events then went away and put some positive coverage on social media – that’s not why we do it, but it is a big benefit.
Is the introduction of autonomous and electric vehicles a challenge or an opportunity for the UK car dealing community?
I think that there is a place for them. I’m pretty neutral about it – from our point of view none of our customers are going to buy an electric or an autonomous car. Our customers buy their cars because they love driving. You don’t buy a Porsche 911 or a Ferrari if you’re interested in an electric car. As long as we stay in the specialist car market I think we will be largely unaffected. Personally, I think the electric car market is naturally going to grow.
Is the uncertainty over Brexit having an impact on your forecourt footfall?
Definitely yes. Without any doubt.
A lot of our customers are – as I am – self-employed; running their own businesses. I think over the last 18 months of uncertainty, people have been putting off purchases that are ‘just for fun’.
We are not a car dealer who sells cars because somebody needs one; we don’t get distress purchases. They are considered purchases. 85% of our customers are buying second cars from us, that they keep in the garage for a sunny day or a holiday. For many of our customers, their car is their hobby so they are taking it to car shows or are involved in an owner’s club or motorsport is part of their social life. It’s not a ‘need’ – it’s a want. On that basis, and from listening to our customers, a lot of them are more cautious about buying luxury things. I attribute the quieter months over the last year to the uncertainty about Brexit.
In what ways does Oodle support you?
We’ve done a few deals with Oodle, particularly this year. The flexibility is useful, especially if your customers don’t have a perfect credit score. Oodle are very good at getting deals placed. Oodle’s approach and the way they try to help a dealer (like giving us someone in the office who looks after our deals, and Oodle’s interest in our business and what we need) is certainly very helpful. Oodle have come to visit and they asked what they can do to help. Having a personal relationship with our finance company, them asking us what’s going on and how they can help is a big plus for us.
What are your day to day dealings with Oodle like?
Very good. The rep is excellent. The feedback I get from our staff who deal with Oodle on the phone is very good. Oodle have a good group of people who really want to do business. Oodle’s rates reflect the quality of the customer service. Like Maundrell & Co., you want to charge a reasonable price for very good customer service.
We have generated over 100,000 click-throughs to our dealer partners’ websites. To find out more about Club Oodle
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are that of the individual who has been interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Oodle Car Finance*. . The content of the blog is not intended to cause any offence to any individual or organisation. We make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability or validity of any information contained within this blog and we will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.