Continuing to sell cars successfully during the new lockdown will be based on making it as easy as possible for consumers to buy and fund them, Startline Motor Finance is advising.

The company says that experience from the first two lockdowns, plus the prospect of the national vaccination programme, means that the used car sector can be reasonably confident about its prospects for the next few months if it meets buyer needs.

CEO Paul Burgess said: “The key lesson from the pandemic so far is that if people are able to continue to buy used cars, they will do so – and in relatively strong and sometimes even exceptional numbers.

“As soon as dealers and introducers were able to resume sales after the first lockdown, consumers immediately starting buying and the second lockdown, in November, had a relatively small impact on levels of business.

“However, the used car businesses who thrived through these moments were those who made it easy within the new trading models for customers to buy. In lockdown situations, sales success is all about removing obstacles to purchasing.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Paul explained, Startline had been putting substantial effort into making it as easy as possible for dealers and other introducers to process motor finance, and this had produced a measurable impact on sales.

“Lockdown places dealers in a situation where all sales are digital, based on a click-and-collect or home delivery model, and this unavoidably changes customer expectations. The fact is that 2021’s consumers expect digital processes to be fast, slick and easy. This is true whether they are buying cars from a dealer or cornflakes from Tesco.

“Our experience is that the dealers and introducers who have recognised this fact and worked to satisfy the customer’s digital requirements are the ones who have really thrived over the last few months, and we have worked to support them by speeding up our own processes and decision making procedures.

“However, it is also about not just making things easier for the customer but the dealer, too, and we have also made changes to their processes to fit in with the new business models and make it easier for them to work with Startline. All of this has had a positive effect.”

Paul added that the mentality of buyers was likely to be quite different during this lockdown than during earlier periods of restriction.

“There is no doubt that entering a further period of lockdown is a depressing prospect but this time around, it does feel like an end is in sight because the vaccination programme is going to become increasingly visible.

“However long it takes for the vaccine to have an impact on restrictions of movement, we do now know that moment is coming at some point, which was not a certainty previously, and people will want to buy cars to take advantage of the approaching freedom.”