Cardoen delivers at home ‘despite corona restrictions’
Belgian ‘car supermarket’ Cardoen is delivering cars at its clients’ homes, despite the corona restrictions. Some 80 vehicles are already handed over this way. Cardoen expects that number to rise to 150 in the next weeks.
The latter makes one’s eyebrows raise inquiringly, especially at the other major Belgian players in the automotive sector, wondering whether this is allowed at all. But when asked by us by phone, Ivo Willems, vice-CEO and commercial director at Cardoen, says he’s confident everything is done legally. The latter was checked and confirmed by sector federation Traxio, among others, Willems says.
“We don’t welcome clients personally at the showroom for deliveries, which is forbidden in general, apart from some exceptions. But one-to-one delivery at the home of an already sold and paid-for car is perfectly possible,” Willems says. The same applies to all other goods sold online and delivered by couriers these days.
Willems hopes, by bringing it into the press, to make the delivery of cars in general discussible again for the whole sector. “Clients who bought a car are calling us desperately, fearing that they could lose their money if the company would go bankrupt before the end of the corona crisis. Cardoen isn’t going to go broke any soon, but how would you react when you just invested 17 000 euros in a new car?”
In a press release, Cardoen stated that the car supermarket continues to deliver cars, even if it is impossible to welcome clients personally. Instead, the company focuses on a ‘personal commercial service’ via its website and salespeople showing clients in detail a particular car they’re interested in by video-call.
Disinfected at the front door
Sales can be accomplished completely digitally. Ten days after payment, and when the registration plate is available, the car is delivered at the client’s front door. The car and the keys are ‘disinfected’ before the car is handed over, and a video explains the features and options of the car.
Asked by a journalist of newspaper DH, several spokespersons of major Belgian car importers question this practice that they consider ‘not allowed’ due to the corona restrictions. BMW says to restrict deliveries strictly to ‘authorized’ persons, like a doctor, for instance, who needs his car and faced a breakdown.
Similar comments at Mercedes, PSA, and D’Ieteren (VW Group): classic car dealerships selling new or second-hand cars are not part of a ‘priority sector’. Delivering cars the way Cardoen is doing is not considered to be ‘an essential movement’, and thus forbidden until further notice, they assume. But according to Ivo Willems, there might be ‘other reasons’ why major car importers don’t want to venture into home deliveries of cars.
The sector is very much in favor though of loosening the strict corona measures and asks the government to be allowed at least to deliver sold vehicles in a safe way, respecting social distancing. New cars are ‘piling up’ at harbors, car importers, and dealerships. Not to mention the leasing sector that can’t execute its contracts for new vehicles, nor taking in end-of-term cars.
Sector asks to restart
Just a few days ago, Belgian mobility federations Febiac (car import), Traxio (car services), and Renta (leasing) asked the government in a joint-statement to allow the restart of a limited number of essential activities at the next evaluation of the COVID-19 measures. Delivering cars is high on the wishlist.
In principle, the way Cardoen is doing its deliveries could be considered quite ‘safe’, if all precautions for social distancing and disinfection are applied. The idea of ‘contactless delivery’ is not new though.
An American online used-car dealer, Carvana, is selling cars this way since 2018, and gives its clients the option to have it delivered at home, or come and get it themselves at the ‘car-vending machine’. Early 2019 already, clients could go to the Indianapolis vending machine, for instance. A seven-story high glass tower is holding up to 26 vehicles in boxes that could be unlocked with a sort of ‘oversized coin’.
Tesla China started early March a ‘Zero Contact Test Drive’ service in Shangai and Beijing in full corona crisis. Geely was to follow soon to boost online sales, as did some European premium brands with their Chinese partners.
Tesla’s ‘contactless delivery’
End of March, the American electric car maker launched ‘contactless delivery’ in the US. Clients can go to the delivery parking lot, where cars can be unlocked with a smartphone app. All necessary papers to sign can be found in the car. An instruction video is used to familiarize the new owner with the basic features of the car, which he can drive home then after leaving the signed papers in a drop-box.
825 000 cars sold online
Certainly, it’s a Tesla with ‘unique over-the-air connectivity’ that makes this possible, as the carmaker states. But other premium brands are likely to be able to offer the same service in the short term if they wish. It’s definitely a new way of delivery that is here to stay as online sales of cars is likely to become further mainstream in the years to come.
American research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that some 825 000 cars were sold online globally in 2019. By 2025, the company predicts six million vehicles could be sold through online platforms, saying ‘the coronavirus will provide impetus to digital retailing for cars’.