Resumption of motor finance essential to making online used car sales viable during lockdown, says Startline

30 Apr 2020

The resumption of widespread availability of motor finance will be essential for used car dealers looking to maximise online sales over the coming weeks and months, says Startline Motor Finance.

The company points out that many motor finance providers had essentially closed their doors to new business when lockdown began, furloughing large numbers of staff in the belief that current conditions would make vehicle sales almost impossible.


CEO Paul Burgess explained: “The clarification from the Government on home delivery and the likely adoption, following that, of click-and-collect models mean that many dealers who had essentially mothballed their businesses are now looking to put a lot of effort and resources into online sales – and to get up-and-running as soon as possible.


“However, the role that motor finance has to play in this scenario has not really been widely discussed. The majority of car sales are enabled by products such as hire purchase and personal contract purchase, and they will be needed to make sales possible.


“To make this work, two issues need to be tackled – integrating motor finance into online customer journeys and ensuring that providers are currently offering services.


“Firstly,  the dealer and their finance panel must have successfully integrated motor finance into their online customer journey. The process must enable finance to be delivered in an easy-to-use, efficient and compliant manner.


“Secondly, their motor finance providers need to be in a position to write new business. Some have furloughed large numbers of staff based on the expectation that the market would essentially be dormant for the period of the lockdown. The possibility of online sales may well have taken these businesses by surprise and they are presumably currently looking at the possibility of gearing up to provide at least a skeleton service.”


Startline had chosen to remain fully operation during the crisis, Paul added, and had been writing amounts of business that it considered surprisingly high. Also, investments that the company had made in online technology had played a key role.


“For some of our largest introducers, for example, we saw April deals running at around two-thirds of the normal level. Yes, overall volumes were substantially down but we have found that staying open has been the right decision. This has not been a dormant market.


“Of course, all of the business that we have seen has been written online. There are no other routes to market at the moment, so digital capabilities have been essential.”


Paul added that it was difficult to forecast the degree of online sales which might occur during lockdown but that it could provide an important lifeline for car retail businesses.


“Our view is that, even if you are retailing only 10-20% of the vehicles that you’d normally manage then, as long as you are making money, it is very worthwhile. Certainly, it is not impossible to envisage scenarios, especially for smaller dealers, where those handfuls of sales might make the difference between surviving this crisis or otherwise.”