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How to uphold your business’s brand persona post-lockdown, guest opinion

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After almost three months of shuttered showrooms, the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions meant car dealers in England were able to reopen their doors from June 1, Northern Ireland June 8 and Wales just this week.

Compounded by the high street being back in business, the ‘new normal’ is almost certainly upon us – but there’s no denying that things look quite different.

While most consumers will easily accept a level of disruption to their weekly grocery shop, when it comes to big budget purchases, people still want to feel they are being treated like ‘the most important customer in the world’.

But, with strict social distancing measures in place, how can sales teams uphold a brands’ personalised service?

Naturally, every automotive specialist has its own user experience and perception – from building awareness via advertising and the carefully managed buying journey, through to the personalised handovers and gifts.

Whether it’s a ‘cheap and cheerful’ run-around from a local garage, or a top of the range electric vehicle (EV), the service level expectations must still be met if people are to part with their cash. There is hope though, as it is still possible for retailers to maintain their differential and create an impact.

By their very nature, car showrooms are spacious and lend themselves to the newly introduced social distancing measures.

Clever layout of vehicles and a subtle one-way system can help to control the flow of people, but with many establishments restricting visits to ‘by appointment only’, the investment in a new approach to user experience needs to match the potential return.

High-value purchases demand a flawless customer journey, and at a time where people are not only cautious with their capital – but also understandably concerned about the health risks associated with stepping outside of their own four walls – it’s more important than ever to have a joined-up approach to all aspects of the buying process.

The first hurdle is inevitably going to be drawing the eye of passers-by.

For those who relied on public transport, many are now looking to spend their commute in the relative safety of their own vehicle. But whether shoppers want a cheap, second-hand run-around or a luxury coupe, you first need to attract their attention.

We’ve been producing state-of-the-art display graphics and lightboxes for Principle and BMW (Sytner Group) since 2012, and strong visuals really are key to getting customers to step onto the forecourt.

Whether it’s roadside banners advertising that you’re open for business, or interchangeable lightboxes that offer advertising space 24/7, large-format, on-message signage is the first step on the road to getting the customer to the point of enquiry.  

For those browsing the stock in person, providing something as simple as branded PPE – such as a facemask and gloves – will instil much-needed confidence and show that you truly value the customer’s experience, and health.

The same goes for directional signage, window graphics and any new sanitisation stations.

As a nation, we’ve had enough time to prepare for the reopening, so that a high-viz off-the-shelf option simply won’t cut it – make sure any infographics match the personality of your brand perfectly.

Think of new ways to ensure hospitality doesn’t fall by the wayside too. A seemingly endless stream of tea and coffee is all part of the process, but perhaps you replace the ceramic mug with a disposable cup, and allow the customer to make their own – covering the coffee machine with antibacterial film to avoid physical content.

As AM reported recently, one of the biggest changes now is around the process of test drives. Sales staff cannot currently sit next to their prospect while happily talking them through all the gadgets and stats associated with their potential new vehicle – however, this could turn out to be a positive move.

Many customers fail to really enjoy a car with an ‘official representative’ breathing over their left shoulder. Not only can it make the driver feel uncomfortable, but it’s then potentially harder for them to imagine themselves as the owner of the vehicle. What better way to sample the goods than being able to tootle about town alone for twenty minutes?

While this is nothing new for manufacturing groups – with many offering extended test drives – it can pose a problem for smaller, independent forecourts. But, rather than refuse to let customers try before they buy, there are other options.

Alternatively, can we introduce a longer cooling off period in lieu of the test drive, an approach which has worked in the mobile phone industry for years.

When it comes to the number crunching, there is still a very real need for people to look into the eyes of another during the ‘haggling’ phase. We’re so used to seeing perspex screens in shops already, that these could provide a temporary solution and allow salespeople to continue to sit down with a potential buyer.

Crucially, the haggling phase shouldn’t be where traders let themselves down either – and there is a very real risk here.

Take the time to reassure the buyer that it’s safe to drive their car that same day, provide a gift that gives a nod to these strange new times, and make sure to check in within a few days of delivery. If you want the purchaser to return when it’s time to trade in their old motor, this kind of experience will be remembered.

As we edge towards a new way of shopping and selling, with the ‘touchy feely’ aspects of the automotive journey undergoing an overhaul, it’s important that other sensory experiences take priority.

Author: Michael Trevethan, marketing manager at graphic display specialist, Leach

Source: https://www.am-online.com/opinion/2020/06/25/how-to-uphold-your-business-s-brand-persona-post-lockdown-guest-opinion

Automotive

Union green lights third PSA vans shift at Luton

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Source: https://www.just-auto.com/news/union-green-lights-third-psa-vans-shift-at-luton_id196600.aspx?utm_source=article-feed&utm_medium=rss-feed&utm_campaign=rss-feed

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Bernhard Maier steps down as Skoda boss

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Skoda Auto will select a new chairman following the resignation of Bernhard Maier, who has led the Czech car maker for the last five years.

Maier began his professional career in 1984 at Nixdorf Computer AG, before joining BMW in 1988.

In 2001, he took over as chairman of the Board of Management of Porsche Deutschland GmbH, and in 2010 was appointed board member for sales and marketing at Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche AG. In this role, Maier is credited for radically modernised the trade and sales organisation.

Under his leadership, the international trade organisation expanded significantly, and worldwide customer deliveries tripled.

In November 2015, Maier was appointed chairman of the board of Skoda Auto. He led key aspects of the company’s reorientation in the areas of electromobility, digitalisation and connectivity, new mobility services and the implementation of a broad-based product campaign for the brand.

Under Maier’s leadership, Skoda introduced a new range of SUVs, including Kodiaq, Karoq, Kamiq and the Scala hatchback.

He also oversaw the development of the Enyaq iV – the first model designed purely as an electric vehicle. Sales increased to approx. 1.3 million vehicles per year, under Maier’s leadership and the brand achieved record figures for sales and operating profit.

Herbert Diess, chairman of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Group, said: “Bernhard Maier is one of the most experienced automotive managers in the Volkswagen Group. In his role as chairman of the board of Skoda Auto, he has made an extraordinary contribution to enhancing the brand’s profile. His years at Skoda are among the most successful in the company’s 125-year history. I would like to thank Bernhard Maier for this and almost two decades of particularly successful years, first at Porsche and then at Skoda.”

Maier’s successor will be elected in accordance with Czech law and subsequently announced at the first Board meeting of Skoda Auto in August 2020

Source: https://www.am-online.com/news/people-news/2020/07/10/bernhard-maier-steps-down-as-skoda-boss

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Caasta launches new ‘subscribe and drive’ mobility solution

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A new car subscription service claiming to offer a single monthly payment mobility for fleets and private motorists claims that it will help to drive the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles (AFV).

Car subscription start-up Caasta, which is backed by Green Bison Group, aims to disrupt the fleet market, in particular, by helping businesses to manage their motoring costs and cash flow through the adoption of electrified vehicles on short-term contracts.

Caasta’s monthly subscription includes: fully comprehensive insurance where required; road tax; manufacturer’s recommended servicing; maintenance and repairs; UK breakdown and accident cover; glass repair and replacement tyres (subject to fair wear and tear). 

Vehicles are subject to a maximum 12-month loan and are guaranteed to not be over 12 months old or 12,000 miles.

Caasta chief executive, Mike Minahan, said: “Our aim is to offer a realistic alternative to traditional long-term finance contracts and the big upfront payments demanded by vehicle leasing providers.

“In these uncertain times the Caasta solution means one-less thing for business leaders to worry about – just add fuel or charge and leave the rest to us.

“We want to help businesses to manage their fleet and business vehicle costs with a trouble-free solution with fully insured and maintained quality vehicles wrapped up in a single monthly payment and the confidence that their maximum commitment is just 12 months.”

As well as being subject to a maximum 12-month contract, compared with typical four-year fleet contracts, Caasta allows ‘pooled mileage’ across its fleet to avoid or minimize excess mileage costs as well as a complimentary £500 damage waiver.

Businesses have the option to hand back any vehicle after the first three months with 14 days’ notice.

Caasta also offers a salary sacrifice service for the supply of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) to employees as part of its commitment to encouraging and supporting the transition to low emission and electric vehicles (EV).

By choosing this option members access the benefit in kind and tax incentives with Caasta managing the procurement and administration on behalf of their employers who are simply required to make the necessary pay role changes.

Minahan said: “The Caasta model has been developed to meet the needs of today’s businesses and today’s drivers. We have already signed up a number of businesses, large and small, who are keen to experience a new flexible approach to managing their business fleets without locking themselves into a typical four-year contract. S

o they can keep their options open while meeting their immediate needs for employees to be on the road, in a fully insured and maintained vehicle while helping them to manage cash-flow with a single fixed monthly fee per vehicle.”

Source: https://www.am-online.com/news/fleet/2020/07/10/caasta-launches-new-subscribe-and-drive-mobility-solution

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