In line with government guidelines, Renault is taking its first steps to restarting its UK dealership operations. It will begin by offering ‘Select and Collect’ services from dealerships to all new and used car buyers ahead of the full reopening of the dealer network.
Renault customers can utilise the wide range of existing digital sales tools to research and reserve their new vehicle via the Virtual Showroom and Online Stock Reservation tool. They will then be informed by phone or email when their vehicle is available for collection at their chosen retailer.
Once the customer has been told that their vehicle is ready, they can then safely visit the retailer to collect it without the need to physically enter the premises, while the Remote eSign Portal takes care of completing finance documents from home. Clear signage will instruct buyers of where to go once they reach the retailer, while any interactions when collecting a vehicle will adhere to the guidance from the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as well as latest government guidelines on social distancing.
All customer cars will be prepared to a high cleaning standard, with attention paid to disinfecting door handles, using covers for seats, steering wheels, gear levers and floor mats, while Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be worn by anyone working on the vehicle. Keys will be wiped clean and placed in a neutral zone for the customer to collect.
The ‘Select and Collect’ service arrives ahead of the full reopening of retailers which, once approved and safe to do so, Renault is fully prepared for with comprehensive safety measures across the full retailer experience for both employees and customers.
Most car manufacturers are now encouraging consumers to choose their next car online; colour, interior spec, finance, extra ADAS systems etc, which obviously carries a risk of effectively cutting out the dealerships’s sales staff from the conversations around a buying decision.
IE Comment; Virtual Showrooms May Replace Some Dealerships
The rise of sites like CarWow and Cazoo, is also helping to force a complete re-think on car retailing in the UK. Mark Standish from Motonovo finance recently told the trade press that Covid-19 means that retailers need to focus much more on digital services, whilst taking every opportunity to `get close to customers.’
But if dealerships have to spend more time sanitising every car, then that time and labour – plus materials – has to be paid for. Can those cost-saving be met by reducing the head count in the sales team? Maybe.
Here’s another long term issue; If consumers don’t return to showrooms in steady numbers then do you need all that expensive space? Perhaps an industrial unit where cars can be prepped and cleaned is a better bet for the bottom line? There are some big questions ahead for dealerships that don’t sell large volumes, and some more niche brands like Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi, Lexus, Lotus etc might eventually find that local service centres are more cost-effective than free coffee n biscuits showrooms, open seven days a week.
It’s a tricky balancing act for franchised dealers this year, as pressure from consumers on prices, finance deals and PX values is bound to increase, just as the manufacturer direct sales website portals effectively take some sales out of the loop.