The UK’s Covid-19 lockdown measures mean that car dealerships’ physical premises are currently closed until, at the earliest, June or July.

Car dealerships have generally lagged behind other consumer goods retailers in establishing online sales channels. In fact, almost all vehicle sales in the last five years have been conducted on-premises, with less than 1% of vehicles being purchased online.

The current lockdown measures, however, seem to have inspired a rapid digitalisation. Leading the pack seem to be the independents.

Dealership management system provider, ClickDealer, has said that record numbers of independent dealerships have joined its online sales platform in the past few weeks. Platforms such as these enable the entire vehicle purchase process to be carried out online - from part-exchange appraisal to finance agreement. The dealership can then arrange vehicle handover in-line with social distancing guidelines or, alternatively, after the lockdown has ended.

Although website traffic dropped in the first few weeks of lockdown, current data from online vehicle advertisers shows a significant uplift in the amount of people using the lockdown period to research their next vehicle purchase.

By establishing an online sales channel, independent dealerships are taking bold measures to keep their businesses afloat. Further, they inadvertently seem to be contributing to a ‘new normal’ in the automotive sales industry. As more and more dealerships move online, customer confidence in the medium should follow. We may be looking at a very different sales landscape in 2021 and beyond.