Auto Trader has announced record levels of consumer engagement on its marketplace, with 7.4m advert views of brand new cars across January – a 69% increase on January 2020.

Equating to almost 10,000 views of a new car every hour, the figure for January represents the highest number of views recorded in a single month.

January also saw a marked increase in the number of individual users viewing a new car on Auto Trader, with a 14% year-on-year growth, and 19% across December.

Such levels of consumer engagement have driven a 98% year-on-year increase in the number of new car leads received by retailers.

Despite the persistence of lockdown restrictions, the strong levels of demand have remained stable in February, with the first week of the month registering the highest ever number of new car advert views in a single week, up 59% year-on-year.

In the same week, the number of new car leads sent to retailers also peaked, with a 116% YoY increase.

Ian Plummer, commercial director at Auto Trader, said: “From what we can see from our data, there is cause for optimism: there’s a growing level of new car demand, and consumer confidence, which is typically the key driver of the new car market, remains relatively strong.

“In fact, our latest research shows that consumers are currently more confident in being able to afford their next car than they were pre-pandemic.”

Planning for each eventuality

However, as the British vaccination programme progresses, Plummer reinforced the importance of dealers planning for both positive and negative scenarios in the near term.

Plummer added: “Although we hope dealerships will reopen soon, retailers need to plan for every eventuality and unfortunately, the possibility their doors will have to remain closed during some or all of the key month of March.”

The data from Auto Trader provides a reassuring indicator of the levels of new car consumer demand in the market, ahead of the 21-registration plate change in March.

A key component of the industry’s ability to cater to such demand has been the acceleration of digitisation amongst players.

Remarking on the industry’s shift towards online retailing, Plummer continued: “There’s clearly an appetite for digital retailing amongst consumers, but for those not currently prepared to complete their journey online.”

However, for consumers not yet comfortable with completing the purchase entirely online, Plummer remains confident that these transactions will quickly evolve into a purchase once consumers are able to physically see and drive the vehicle.

Plummer concludes: “The strong signs of pent-up demand we’re tracking on our marketplace should therefore help the new car market return to health as soon as retailers can reopen.”