LONDON -- Vauxhall expects telephone sales to help it move unsold stock and drive new orders as the coronavirus lockdown puts a halt to traditional retail sales.
The initiative was ordered by Vauxhall Managing Director Stephen Norman, who felt that a pure online sales platform would not perform well enough.
"Online sales with one or two exceptions are still user unfriendly, " Norman told Automotive News Europe in a phone interview. "My long and laborious experience of online selling made me think maybe there was a third way."
The cars are offered on a long lease as opposed to more traditional finance purchases and come with down payments starting at 185 pounds (212 euros, $228) a month.
Vauxhall said the offer was only available "during the COVID-19 period."
Vauxhall, the UK arm of PSA Group's Opel, has more than 10,000 new cars sitting in dealer lots, Norman said.
The telesales scheme offers customers these cars as well as taking orders for cars that will be fulfilled when European factories emerge from lockdown.
UK government guidance changed earlier this month to allow deliveries of non-essential products, giving automakers the opportunity to deliver cars directly to customers.
The finance is provided by a broker, Jet Finance, and rebranded under Vauxhall's captive provider, Vauxhall Finance, which is owned jointly by PSA Group and BNP Paribas bank.
"Our captive finance house currently doesn't sell online," Norman said. "That's a not a criticism, that's not the way they operate."
Norman said Vauxhall chose Jet because of its online expertise. "That's their job. If you want to do a professional job you employ experts," he said.
The telesales operation is staffed by telephone sales specialists, rather than by showroom sales staff, Norman said.
Vauxhall is not alone in offering alternatives to retail sales during the lockdown. Dacia in the UK is offering its customers free delivery if they buy cars online, which it said represented a saving of 250 pounds.
Vauxhall has been hit harder than most automakers in the UK by the lockdown. March new-car sales were down 66 percent for the brand in a market down 44 percent. Vauxhall had a market share of 4.9 percent last month, down from 8.25 percent in the same period in 2019.
Norman said Vauxhall was hit partly by a model changeover as the new Corsa small car becomes available.
"What will drive the share back will be product offering," he said, "and in the case of cars, that's principally the Corsa."