Our latest research has revealed that overall volumes of online enquiries for new and used cars grew by 7.4% during the first half of 2018. While dealerships saw a slight decline (down 4.1%) in the volume of web enquiries on new vehicles during the last six months, the fall was more than offset by a dramatic rise in online enquiry volumes for used vehicles (up by 25.2%).

The total volume of leads for new vehicles from all sources – including telephone, email and ‘walk-in’ enquiries – declined 6.2% throughout the first half of the year. Our data echoes that from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which reported a 6.85% year-to-date decline in new car registrations to the end of May 2018.

The total number of telephone enquiries declined by 12.9%, year-on-year in the first half of 2018, while total ‘walk-in’ enquiries dropped by 8.3%. Walk-in enquiries still accounted for the single largest source of customer enquiries, making up 40.0% of all enquiries – however, this has dropped from 41.0% during the first six months of 2017.

Our data also reveals a shift in the way customers are paying for their cars, with a growing proportion of new and used cars purchased with a finance product. The finance penetration rate on new vehicles grew 1.2 percentage points to 76.4%, while increasing consumer interest in used cars saw the proportion of second-hand vehicles sold on finance growing to 44.9%, a rise of 3.4 percentage points.

Martin Hill, Managing Director, commented:

With volatility in demand for new cars, the growth in consumer interest for used vehicles and used-car finance is welcome news for many retailers. With increasing numbers of customers starting their purchases online, dealers must optimise their digital presence and processes. In particular, that means responding to online enquiries in a professional and timely manner, providing accurate information on stock availability, and selling finance and insurance products in a proactive yet fully compliant way.

Dealerweb consumer research in 2016 suggested that 49% of UK car buyers expect a response from a dealer within one hour of making an enquiry. Half of these – 25% of all vehicle buyers – expect the dealer to respond in under 30 minutes.

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