Retail motor industry ‘must do more’ to educate customers on new fuel choices

The retail motor industry must do more to educate customers on the wide range of fuel choices they now face, members of the Vehicle Remarketing Association were told at the organisation’s July member meeting.

Both David Bailey, professor of business economics at the Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, and Rupert Pontin, insight director at Cazana, spoke at the event and highlighted how this process would be crucial to future sales.

Bailey said: “The success or failure of the electric vehicle market in all of its many forms depends on consumers being comfortable with the technology.

“We are moving from a phase where the market is dominated by early adopters who are happy to do lots of research about the choices facing them to one where EVs will become part of the mass market. For that to happen, we need to provide information.”

He added that, if handled correctly, there was a good chance that the process could be used to create a new degree of confidence in car retailers.

“If we are able to successfully steer car buyers through making a choice in a manner that promotes trust, it could be used to help build an improved reputation for the sector.”

Pontin said: “Even people who work in the sector sometimes have trouble distinguishing between PHEVs, BEVs, petrol MHEVs, diesel MHEVs and more. How do we expect customers to be able to make the right choice for their needs?

“The fact is that we need to do more to help them, especially as more and more of these vehicles start to filter through onto the used market. The fact is that any vehicle that consumers do not understand is likely to be worth less. The advantages of each type need to be made clear using terminology that the car buyer appreciates and understands.”

Sam Watkins, chair at the VRA, which represents businesses that handle, sell, inspect, transport or manage more than 1.5 million used vehicles every year, said that the issue was one that car retailers would soon need to take seriously.

“In a very short time, car buyers are going to be walking into showrooms faced with multiple power options for what is ostensibly the same vehicle. All of these choices will be the right one for some customers, but the industry needs to start delivering useful guidance on the differences and the advantages.

“This could be especially true for the remarketing sector. Vehicles that have no clearly defined buyer base tend to suffer in terms of values and time to sell.”

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