Britain’s biggest car-maker, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), has boosted its online ‘virtual showroom’ sales in a bid to kick-start the dormant market and entice customers into buying new vehicles despite the coronavirus lockdown.
A year-long digital car-buying trial which began with just five per cent of customers is now being made available to all prospective buyers – evidence has shown that a higher proportion of digital buyers are female, compared with traditional showroom sales.
With showrooms now closed during the lockdown and car sales plummeting, it is the latest way major car makers are having to adapt their businesses due to coronavirus and could accelerate a revolution in the way all cars are bought and sold in future.
Hands on: Customers can create the car they want online and purchase it ‘at the click of a button’
Customers can create the car they want online and purchase it ‘at the click of a button’ with delivery to their home made in a manner which complies with strict lockdown safe-distancing rules.
The Government announced last month that motor traders will be allowed to sell and deliver vehicles remotely during the lockdown, providing they stick to social distancing guidelines, meaning online-sales only as showrooms remain closed.
It also comes as manufacturers, including JLR, are preparing to re-start partial, or in some cases, full factory production of cars.
JLR said: ‘Following a trial period and a staged roll out, Jaguar Land Rover UK has expanded its online sales offering in light of coronavirus restrictions so that customers can browse, build and order online from the safety of their own home.’
The firm, with plants in Castle Bromwich and Solihull in Birmingham, Halewood on Merseyside and also in Slovakia, has been running online sales trials since May last year using ‘virtual’ showrooms, so that customers can configure the car they want, according to trim level, engine size and added ‘extras’.
More than 3.3 million shoppers have taken part so far, it said, noting: ‘Virtual showrooms and remote concierge services ensure the protection of customers and staff whilst maintaining the highest levels of care and personal attention.’
JLR said its remote retailing will offer customers more flexibility during the Coronavirus outbreak: ‘A range of digital sales services have been gradually rolled out over the past year, offering buyers part exchange valuations, finance quotes, finance applications and online reservations.
‘People using the online configurator can purchase the vehicle they’ve built at the click of a button.
‘The trial began with just 5 per cent of users and has gradually been made available to 100 per cent of users on the Jaguar and Land Rover UK websites. Now, with UK retailers closed to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, Jaguar Land Rover UK’s online services are being expanded and honed to offer buyers ultimate flexibility and convenience.’
It said the first vehicle ordered through the service was a £119,000 Range Rover.
JLR said: ‘Online customers configuring their new vehicle go through the usual process of picking their engine, trim level and options – across any Jaguar or Land Rover model – before being invited to purchase the vehicle.’
They are offered the option of cash payment, a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) or Hire Purchase.
Buyers are also offered a valuation of their current vehicle for part exchange. They can make a finance application and put down a deposit.
Step-by-step guide: Potential customers on the www.jaguar.co.uk and www.landrover.co.uk sites can either configure a new vehicle or browse stock available throughout the UK
The firm noted: ‘Customers opting for finance plans can see how much extra per month will be added or removed to their plan if they choose to add or remove options, Jaguar Land Rover being the first manufacturer to provide this feature. ‘
Potential customers on its www.jaguar.co.uk and www.landrover.co.uk sites can either configure a brand-new vehicle or browse stock available throughout the UK retailer network.
JLR said: ‘To help inform customers, new virtual showrooms have been created with video presentations to showcase all Jaguar and Land Rover models. Phone and video sales appointments are available so that customers can talk directly to specialist consultants to answer questions and discuss specific needs, removing the need to visit a showroom.’
Retailers are also offering tailored services for vehicle deliveries in line with the latest government guidance: Many sites have individual handover bays which have been prepared in line with social distancing and hygiene guidelines and parts of the network are offering delivery options.
Rawdon Glover, managing director of JLR UK said: ‘We have been refining our online customer journey for a while and, thanks to the support of our retail partners, we can now provide a comprehensive, convenient and flexible service that is safe for our customers and our staff.’
Volvo Cars, meanwhile, has upgraded its online sales website to enhance ‘stay at home’ buying and introduced ‘contactless home delivery’.
Customers can order a new car at www.volvocars.co.uk/order-online which now has a new ‘live chat’ function linking people to advisers.
Special ‘social distancing’ measures have also been rolled out across service and repair outlets ‘to help keep customers and retailer staff as safe as possible’.
Volvo has also extended warranty and servicing timelines to support customers with ‘non-essential’ requirements.
Volvo said: ‘Customers can now opt for contactless home delivery of their new car, in line with government guidelines.’
Online motor sales site carwow.co.uk says almost half of Britons are planning post-lockdown splurges.
Most searched for brands during the lockdown are BMW (30 per cent) , Audi (27 per cent) and Ford (16 per cent).
Scotland were ‘digital window shopping’ online the most (55 per cent), followed by Londoners (52 per cent), and those in the South East and Yorkshire (both 50 per cent).
Robert Forrester, chief executive of Vertu Motors, with 133 UK dealership outlets, said since adapting to the lockdown they had 2,825 phone calls of which 1,816 were to book a car service, 380 were sales enquiries and 66 actual retail orders.
The company has brought back 1,000 of its 6,000 furloughed employees and switched calls via its Gateshead call centre to workers’ homes.
With limited supply, used car prices will stay stable as people buy a modest car rather than risk public transport or car-sharing, Forrester predicted.
But he stressed: ‘I don’t think our business will ever be the same again. It will never be like it was.’
Rolls-Royce is to become the first UK car firm to re-start full production after the corona virus lockdown.
Bosses said that 1,000 employees – half the total workforce – will be back on the production line resuming production of its exclusive Phantom, Wraith, Dawn and Cullinan models.
The firm’s factory at Goodwood, near Chichester, will operate one shift daily, rather than the usual two.
Staff will be wearing protective clothing and masks, and observing social distancing rules in line with Health and Safety advice.
Bentley has announced it is to phase in production from May 11, rising to full production from May 18 – the same day that Jaguar Land Rover aims to restart some production.
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