After the government warned Britons to only use buses and trains as a last resort, cars have been relied upon as an essential mode of transport for many during lockdown.
However, with travel restrictions easing and people permitted to drive to other destinations, new research from our consumer panel, @ The Local, uncovered a 37% increase in the use of cars instead of public transport, compared to pre-lockdown.
This is backed up by findings from Tom Tom and TfL data which detail a consistent week on week increase in road traffic, revealing a steady return to pre-lockdown levels – now at 70% of normal traffic numbers.
With the inevitable increase in car usage, we asked @ The Local members about their driving behaviours and their intent to buy a new motor in 2020.
In the market for a car
With Covid-19 infection fears and TfL and other public transport operators reducing capacity, our survey found a significant increase in consumers in the market for a car: We uncovered a 50% month on month increase in @ The Local panellists considering purchasing a new motor.
This result was mirrored in a recent YouGov survey which also saw a two-fold increase in those thinking about buying a car, compared to pre-lockdown levels.
Drilling down further, one in four said they are either definitely or seriously considering paying for a new car in the next 12 months, increasing to 42% among those most exposed to OOH. However, with one in six saying they want to buy, but are unsure about which make and model to purchase, there is room for brands to influence and inspire with marketing and promotions.
Green light on spend
While there is general economic uncertainty, the new retail term coined for a torrent of sales – the Revenge Spend – looks set to make its way into the UK car market over the course of 2020.
Our survey found that 69% of @ The Local members plan to spend just as much as usual or even more on big ticket items like cars. This increases to a huge 74% for 25-34s.
In more good news for those in the automotive sector, of those planning to buy a new car, 62% said they intend to spend up to £50,000. Demonstrating the power of Outdoor advertising, this jumps to 76% among those most exposed to OOH and 75% among Londoners and ABC1s.
Meanwhile, a confident 56% of @ The Local panellists in the market for a new motor said they will be purchasing their new car outright, without the need for finance.
Electric and Hybrid driving green shoots
With continuing concerns over climate change and new UK legislation announced to ban fossil fuel cars after 2035, electric and hybrid cars have seen an escalation in consumer spend, even post-lockdown.
According to SMMT data, Tesla was one of just two manufactures to have grown its UK sales in the first six months of 2020 – with the other being luxury car manufacturer MG, with its ZS EV eclectic car.
Of those @ The Local panellists planning to buy a car in 2020, 20% intend to go electric or hybrid, and this increases to a huge one in three among Londoners. With over 9000 charging points across the UK already, and more planned in 2020, its likely more people will turn to electric cars as they gradually continue to become the new normal.
Refuelling the economy
While new car sales fell 35% year on year in June – this is still a significant improvement on April and May’s numbers (down 97% and 89% respectively). And with more car dealerships and showrooms opening up across the UK over the next few months, the new car market looks set to generate more sales.
Meanwhile the used car market in England experienced a much stronger come back, with sales up 3.4% in the first 10 days of June, compared with the same period in 2019, according to INDICATA.
Throughout Q3 and Q4 and beyond – as the market continues to open up (including the manufacture of cars and supply channels) and the pent-up consumer desire to spend is appeased – we expect to see the overall automotive market begin to bounce back, fuelled in part by luxury car sales and the growth in hybrid and electric car sales.