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Covid-19 recovery the biggest threat to dealers, but new consumer buying patterns to deliver opportunities in the year ahead

9 June 2021

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The recovery from Covid-19 continues to be the main concern for car dealers when thinking about the future of their business, according to new research from Close Brothers Motor Finance.

Over a third (35%) of dealers surveyed in the Dealer Satisfaction Survey said that Covid-19 recovery and the potential for future lockdowns poses the biggest threat to their business in the next 12 months, while a further 15% are worried about economic downturn and unemployment. 

The pandemic has drastically overtaken Brexit as a perceived threat, with no dealers identifying Brexit or post-Brexit uncertainty as a big threat to their business, compared to a sizeable 35% who said so in late 2019. 

Meanwhile, just 5% of dealers view a lack of stock availability as a big threat to their business, despite Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit delays putting pressure on global supply, and the semi-conductor shortage wreaking havoc on AFV manufacturing. 

Thinking about the opportunities for their business in the year ahead, car-buying patterns and consumer sentiment come out on top, with 14% of dealers identifying the growth of online sales and research, and a further 5% viewing changing consumer behaviour as the biggest opportunities. 

Over a tenth (13%) of dealers are hoping business returns to normal post-Covid, and 9% of dealers think that growth and expansion are the biggest opportunities for their business in the year ahead.

Dealer Satisfaction Survey - threats and opportunities table

Seán Kemple, Managing Director at Close Brothers Motor Finance commented: “The motor industry has been shaken up by Covid-19, so is it any wonder that dealers are threatened by recovery and the potential for future lockdowns to shut down their businesses once again? Dealers will be laser-focused on stabilizing their businesses in the year ahead, but it’s down to Government support and collaboration across the industry to ensure recovery happens more swiftly. 

“But the devil is in the detail. We must not be totally blinkered by the pandemic. The past year has also prompted a shift in consumer sentiment, with digital buying evolving rapidly and new perceptions of car ownership presenting fresh opportunities for dealers to seize in a post-pandemic world. Dealers have made great strides in transitioning to a digital forecourt in the past year, as well as providing online finance tools. And in a hybrid retail environment, the physical showroom will support and enhance the whole car-buying experience. Ultimately, those that tap into the opportunities to engage with customers online are the ones that will come out on top in the years to come.”

Research for our Dealer Satisfaction Survey is included in Episode One of our latest Britain Under the Bonnet report. To find out more or to request a copy, click here.

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