Think customers want to buy online? Think again.

The vast majority of South African consumers would still prefer to acquire their next vehicle in person despite COVID-19 restrictions forcing the auto industry to accelerate online and click and collect strategies.

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This is one of the findings of the 2021 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study released recently. The study revealed that 71% of South African consumers would rather prefer to acquire their next car in person, the highest percentage in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. The region also includes Austria, France, Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Italy, Germany and the UK.

Only 10% of South African respondents indicated that they would prefer to acquire their next vehicle through a fully virtual process, the lowest percentage in EMEA, while 18% preferred a partially virtual buying experience.

Deloitte said that even if there were a pervasive shift to online, the role of the dealer should not be underestimated.

In South Africa, 61% of respondents indicated that the most preferred way to acquire a new vehicle via a virtual process was through an authorised dealer, 33% from a manufacturer and 7% from a third-party retailer.

“Those consumers who want a virtual buying process for their next vehicle would still prefer to interact with an authorised dealer,” it said.

In South Africa, 61% of respondents indicated that the most preferred way to acquire a new vehicle was via a virtual process through an authorised dealer, 33% from a manufacturer and 7% from a third-party retailer.

Deloitte said those consumers who do want a virtual buying experience for their next vehicle were attracted by the convenience and the speed offered by an online purchase.

The report said 46% of South Africans, the highest percentage in the EMEA region, indicated that the main reason to acquire their next vehicle via a virtual process was convenience.

This was followed by ease of use (11%), speed (16%), necessity (17%) and desire to avoid going to a dealer (10%).

Deloitte said some things were simply hard to digitise as people still wanted to see and test drive a vehicle before they bought it, with the study revealing that 80% of South African consumers have to see the vehicle before buying it and 71% have to test drive the vehicle.

In South Africa, 84% of respondents indicated they were not reconsidering the cost of the next vehicle they planned to buy.

Other factors were of lesser importance, such as a preference to negotiate in person (46%), being uncomfortable buying online (56%), wanting to interact with a real person (55%), wanting a personal contact (50%), wanting to be treated like they are important (25%) and wanting to build a relationship for service (35%).

Deloitte said consumers in most countries seemed to have the most trusted relationships with the purchasing dealer except in Turkey and South Africa, where consumers feel most connected to the brand of vehicle they currently own.

It said 31% of South African consumers had the most trusted relationship with the brand, 23% with the purchasing dealer, 27% with the servicing dealer, 3% with the financial lender and 16% with none of these.

South African consumers had the least trust in their relationship with the purchasing dealer out of all the countries in the EMEA region, with Turkey next worst at 25%.

In all the other countries in the region, the level of trust among consumers in their relationship with the purchasing dealer was at least 34% or more. Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, a majority of consumers have not altered their timeline for buying a new car, the study found. However, it said the slight delay in demand that is expected will likely have a negative impact on sales.

In regard to South Africa, the study revealed that 49% of South Africans had not altered their timelines for buying a new car - the second lowest percentage in the EMEA region behind Turkey at 44%.

It further revealed that 32% planned to buy a new car later than planned while 11% anticipated buying a new car sooner than planned.

Deloitte added that in most markets, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused only a small number of consumers to reconsider the cost of the next vehicle they plan to buy.

In South Africa, 84% of respondents indicated they were not reconsidering the cost of the next vehicle they planned to buy.

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