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Is The Forecourt-Based Business Model on Borrowed Time?

The founder of a multi-award-winning dealership says he can see the time just a few years from now when buyers will expect a fully digital journey from searching to delivery and dealers relying on a forecourt-based business will struggle to cope.

Jacob Freshwater, who set up Fresh Motors in Norfolk three years ago, said he expects the change to be led by van and commercial vehicle buyers who will probably go fully digital by 2025 with car buyers perhaps taking another five after that.

Fresh Motors collecting the Fastest Growing Dealer of the Year Award at the 2019 Motor Trader Independent Dealer Awards.

He says the shift in consumer behaviour means that despite it being the norm of many decades, dealers who operate primarily from a forecourt and selling mainly in their locality will be left swimming against the tide.

His company has won numerous industry awards since 2016 with the latest being the Click Dealer-sponsored Fastest Growing Dealer of the Year at the recent Motor Trader ceremony. Mr Freshwater said being a young company has let them bring in modern thinking and a willingness to use technology as much as possible for both the benefit of the business and the customers.

He said:

“The industry is moving rapidly from paper to digital and we embrace that wherever possible. There is a `click-and-collect’ model, especially among many of our LCV buyers where they do the whole transaction online because they are busy people who do not want to spend time looking at vans but need to get their investment on the road and earning as soon as possible.

100% digital in around five years’ time

“I can see this sector being 100% digital in around five years and car buyers five after that. There are still customers who want the showroom experience, who want to see and touch the car and shake the hand of the sales staff but increasingly we see the younger buyers happy to do the whole process online. After all, you can buy and sell houses online so why not cars?

“As people now in their late teens or early 20s come to the market, people for whom digital is second nature, our industry will change beyond recognition and I think the need for the forecourt business model is rapidly falling.

“For so many years that has been the way for the used car trade and perhaps because of that success some will be resistant to change of doing but consumers are going digital so dealers need to respond likewise and have a 24/7, fully online capability. I really think the forecourt way of trading will come to an end.”

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