Cars being bought and sold even though showrooms are closed during Covid-19 circuit breaker period

Motor traders are still selling cars online. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Motor traders are still selling cars during this period of heightened safe-distancing, but they are doing so online because all car showrooms - which are deemed to be non-essential - are closed.

Checks by The Straits Times revealed that all major authorised dealerships have been garnering interest and orders via the Internet. Some bookings are pending test-drives after May 4, but other transactions are already complete, with deposits paid via credit card or even, a phone-based channel such as PayNow.

BMW said its dealers, Performance Motors and Performance Munich Autos, have been taking orders. Customers can visit a BMW digital showroom, or call the dealerships.

"There are no physical meetings," a BMW Asia spokesman said. "The whole process is done digitally."

Over at Nissan agent Tan Chong Motor, sales staff will follow up when buyers e-mail, text or call the company.

"No choice... that's the only avenue right now to garner inquiries," Tan Chong Motor's head of sales and marketing Ron Lim said, adding that arrangements for test-drives will be made once the circuit breaker measures are lifted.

Inchcape, which represents Toyota and Suzuki in Singapore, said customers could already get in touch with its sales staff without visiting showrooms even before non-essential businesses were closed two weeks ago.

Mr Samuel Yong, director of marketing and business strategy at Inchcape's Toyota agent Borneo Motors, said that after the circuit breaker measures were put in place, "we added online payment gateways for customers to place a deposit to secure a vehicle". He added that deliveries will take place after the circuit breaker.

At multi-franchise Wearnes Automotive, online prospecting had also been in place before the pandemic. "We are quite digital in our sales process, so customers have access to vehicle specifications, reviews, and so on," said Ms Sabrina Sng, managing director of Wearnes' Volvo operations. But during the circuit breaker period, this method of selling was given a bigger push.

"Times are changing, and we should too," she said. "We were sceptical initially, but it's heartening that some customers are willing to place deposits and buy online even for a big ticket item like a car."

She added that the company had secured about 10 orders on this platform.

Hyundai agent Komoco, which has had a fully-fledged online sales portal since November 2018, said it had "concluded several sales on this system in the last two weeks".

"The platform can generate an order, and collect the deposit directly," a spokesman said. "Once done, we apply for bank loans through DBS or Maybank, which is through another online platform."

Others which have jumped on the online sales bandwagon include Mazda agent Eurokars, which accepts deposits via PayNow; and Kia agent Cycle & Carriage, which launched an online "flash warehouse sale" last weekend (April 18-19) which drew "a positive response".

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