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Automotive|United Kingdom|English

1.625 million UK households are dispassionate towards their car – an opportunity for mass-market multi-brand dealerships


Over 100 years ago, Henry Ford made the car available to the masses by revolutionising the manufacturing process. A car became a status symbol – and by the end of 2016, 30.9 million cars1 were registered on Britain’s roads. But, looking closer at the record year 2016, we see only a 0.8%2 yoy increase of private new car registrations; the market has been slowly moving towards saturation for a while now. And another trend is making itself known: The attitude towards car ownership is shifting – the car has lost some of its standing as status symbol.

One indicator is the 25%3 decline of obtained driving licenses by 17-20 year olds since 2008. An audience that – pre Facetime, Call of Duty and Snapchat – was eager to gain the freedom a vehicle gave them. Although 42%4 cite costs as the main issue why they don’t have a license and/or a car, having the latest tech device has become a status symbol in itself – weakening the standing of cars5. In addition, the digital age has made some parts of said freedom redundant: the audience can now see, communicate and interact with their friends without moving from their rooms.

The other indicator is that – of the 20,317.54 4,6 million households in the UK that have access to a car – 1.625 6'7 million see their vehicle as ‘merely a tool’, ‘a means to get from A to B’, or have neither a positive nor a negative attachment. This might not sound like a large number relative to the total number of households using cars. But keep in mind that 72%6 of all UK households are made up of two or more people. Putting the two figures together, it means that in 1.170 million UK households a partner might spread the disinterest to their spouse, or a parent teaching the value shift to the kids.

Global mega trends like urbanisation, digitalisation and sustainability have changed consumer lives and needs towards mobility which explain the disassociation to a degree. In addition, Dieselgate and other recent issues have diminished consumer trust in the automotive industry. Vehicle manufacturers are working hard to win back what was lost – which is especially important because 25% of UK consumers aged 15-49 years agree that they only buy from trusted brands5 (tendency rising). But if customers don’t really trust the vehicle manufacturer, multi-brand dealerships have the opportunity to establish themselves as the trusted brand in between – one that offers trusted service and shares their consumers’ values.

The number of customers who want their car quickly and without human interaction will increase as consumers get used to shopping for cars online. And it doesn’t help the industry that the old picture of ‘sleazy’, ‘pushy’ and ‘dishonest’8 car sales people still exists in people’s minds. But it’s in the hands of dealerships to change that. Become a trusted brand partner through online and offline channels, and you set the tone for the industry. Also, honesty, authenticity and stable personal relationships are among the top four values for UK consumers in 2016 – money related values remain behind (material security 11, status 54)5. Therefore, if your staff understand and speak to the human (or rather – emotional, value-orientated) side of the consumer, you can increase their likelihood to continue purchasing offline. With multiple brands and models available, you are likely to have a model that suits their particular needs at their stage in life – not to mention aftersales and servicing post purchase. A win-win for dealerships, OEMs and consumers.

• 1 Department for Transport, Vehicle Licensing Statistics: Annual 2016, April 2017
• 2 SMMT vehicle registration data
• 3 Department for Transport, Road Use Statistics Great Britain 2016, April 2016
• 4 Department for Transport, National Travel Survey: England 2015, September 2016
• 5 GfK, Consumer Life, December 2016
• 6 Office for National Statistics, Statistical bulletin: Families and households in the UK, November 2016
• 7 GfK, Omnibus Study, March 2017. n=1996
• 8 Daniel H. Pink, To sell is Human, 2013