60% of GCC car buyers prefer to buy online than visit a showroom amid Covid-19

Eight in 10 are willing to test drive a car at home as long as the vehicle has been sanitised, new study finds

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Simon Wilgress-Pipe: A Bentley Flying Spur. The opening of the new Bentley Emirates showroom. Tuesday, January 21st, 2020. Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Six in 10 GCC residents would consider buying a car online rather than visiting a showroom, according to a new study that analyses how the Covid-19 outbreak has affected the industry and changed car purchasing habits.

Sixty per cent of respondents now prefer making the purchase virtually, according to the Covid-19 Effects on Car Buyers' Purchasing Decision report from UAE car classifieds site YallaMotor, which analysed the responses of 1,200 car buyers across the GCC. This compares to a 2019 report from YouGov that found only 20 per cent of UAE residents would consider such an option.

Fifty-six per cent of car buyers also said they would not visit a showroom to check out a vehicle, the YallaMotor study found, with 82 per cent willing to test drive a car at home as long as the vehicle has been sanitised.

“Whatever we used to experience as the ‘norm’ won’t be there anymore. The fact we might be able to go back to our offices, take a walk, participate in events, drive cars and walk into showrooms does not mean our purchasing behaviours won’t change,” said Jorge Bialade, the general manager of YallaMotor, a subsidiary of the Middle East jobs site Bayt.com.

“Covid-19 has forced us to rethink the way we operate while slowly and almost without noticing it has changed our behaviours.”

Buying a new or second-hand car has been difficult for UAE residents in recent weeks as the country observes strict stay-at-home directives to contain the virus that has seen schools, shopping malls, beaches and car showrooms closed.

The deadly virus has infected almost 1.8 million people globally and killed more than 108,000 as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. Around of 405,000 people have recovered.

The virus outbreak is also changing consumers' buying habits. About 39 per cent of car buyers say they would now take up to three months to make a decision about purchasing a car, compared to the 65 per cent last year who said they only needed a month to decide.

“From a qualitative point of view, this means car buyers will no longer be in the market for changing their car, or else, they are now thinking of more budget-friendly options,” the YallaMotor report said.

“With convenience in mind, consumers will be interested in ... more affordable options and also looking into second-hand vehicles if they were interested in purchasing a new one.”

Seven in 10 respondents said they prefer to buy a second-hand car, compared to 20 per cent that would opt for a new vehicle and 10 per cent that would choose a certified pre-owned model.

The main factor influencing the decision to buy a car is reduced prices for 74 per cent of those polled, compared to attractive loan options for 11 per cent and complimentary services such as free insurance or a service contract for 10 per cent, the report found.