POLL | How many South Africans will buy their next car online?

13 April 2021 - 16:04 By Motoring Staff
More and more motor manufacturers are allowing customers to purchase vehicles online.
More and more motor manufacturers are allowing customers to purchase vehicles online.
Image: Markus Mainka / 123rf

More people are shopping online than ever before. In 2020, the number of global e-commerce users increased 9.5% year-on-year (YoY), growing to more than 3.4 billion. In 2021, the number of global e-commerce users is expected to grow by 10% YoY to 3.8 billion.

Many of those people will be shopping for cars — which means that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are focusing on taking their product offering online like never before.

Companies such as Tesla have blazed a trail when it comes to online automotive shopping. Last year, for instance, almost four million Chinese consumers watched an hour-long online show by Tesla — and then booked test drives online.

However, according to a Deloitte study referenced in AutoTrader’s latest report, titled Biannual AutoTrader Car Industry Report, online vehicle shopping isn’t all a bed of roses. The study reveals that even though virtual vehicle sales may be here to stay, most consumers would still prefer to acquire their next vehicle in person at an authorised car dealership, as some aspects of the buying process remain difficult to digitise.

A snap poll by AutoTrader run on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook confirms that the South African jury is still firmly out when it comes to online shopping for cars. This dipstick survey probed whether South Africans would be buying their next new car online. Respondents were split down the middle: while 50% said yes, they were prepared to buy their next new car online, the other 50% said no.

George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, says some hesitation or caution on the part of consumers is understandable.

“A car is a substantial asset, and it is arguably the second-biggest purchase in a car buyer’s life. As such, the car buyer is unlikely to buy a car fully online (as is the case with other consumer goods). Fulfilment, for instance, has to be done in person at the moment as a result of having to validate the consumer particularly in the case of finance,” he points out.

Having said this, the future of automotive retailing is certainly moving more and more online. As Ron Zheng, a partner at consulting firm Roland Berger in Shanghai, recently told Bloomberg: “Consumer behaviour and habits have changed. It’s going to be a turning point for online car-selling.”

A seamless consumer “online to offline and back again” shopping experience is what South African motorists will increasingly demand in future.

“OEMs and dealerships that fail to recognise this trend will be left behind — as innovative and online business models and businesses start taking the lead,” concludes Mienie.


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