Fourth year of BearingPoint’s automotive lead management research shows manufacturers improving responsiveness to online channels in Europe. China lagging far behind.

London/Frankfurt, July 23, 2013 – For the last four years BearingPoint has conducted a survey to test how effectively major car brands respond to online test drive requests. Although the 2013 results show a marked improvement in responsiveness in European markets, the picture for China is concerning, especially as there are signs that growth in this critically important car market is starting to slow.

In the first three years our survey highlighted consistently poor levels of response by car manufacturers in Europe. However, the results of the 2013 research show a significant improvement in responsiveness. This year 63% test drive requesters in Europe were contacted within four days (last year only 41% were contacted within the same period). There is, however, still room for improvement with 26% of requested test drives not followed up at all within the 14 day survey period (last year this was a staggering 50%).

The Chinese market was included for the first time in the survey this year. All 19 car brands surveyed showed very poor response rates. This is a surprising result given that globally car manufacturers view test drives as an important component in the car buying process with all 19 manufacturers surveyed offering test drive requests via their Chinese web sites. Despite the critical importance of the Chinese car market an incredible 94% of online test drive requests were not responded to within four days - and 92% of the requests were ignored by the end of the full 14 day survey period.

Unlike Europe, China is a “boom” market for most car makers. With high levels of demand, manufacturers and their dealers appear to be paying little attention to online test drive requests, perhaps ignoring them in favor of an abundance of showroom traffic. This may represent a significant risk. With new car sales slowing to single-digit growth, and a faster growing used car sector, manufacturers are likely to face a much more competitive new car market in China in the coming years. The ability to effectively and efficiently respond to online leads will then become increasingly important.

James Rodger, Partner at BearingPoint and responsible for the Automotive Lead Management survey, explains:

“The protracted slump in demand in the European car market has meant that manufacturers appear to have lifted their game, fighting harder for market share with a marked jump in responsiveness to online test drive requests. 
Up until now, the strong Chinese car market has provided much needed demand for car manufacturers. But as growth slows and the normal rules of market competition begin to apply, learning the lessons from established markets such as Europe will be essential. The poor response to test drive requests seen in China will need to change, with substantial market share opportunities on offer for the first marques who respond.”

“OEMs have learned in Europe that effective lead management is critical to maintaining and/or growing share within periods of weak demand. They need to apply their lessons learned to China before the market growth cools and exposes potential weaknesses in their lead management processes.”

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