5 takeaways for car dealers in the time of COVID-19

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on April 24, 2020

To say COVID-19 has disrupted the auto industry is an understatement. The global pandemic is continuing to sweep the world, forcing car shoppers to re-evaluate their purchase plans and change their shopping behaviours. Despite the constantly evolving situation, dealers who are able to adapt still have the opportunity to bring in business and stay connected to their customers.

Here are five key takeaways from our soon-to-be-released global COVID-19 Sentiment Study that you can use to adapt your business strategy to today’s new normal.

Shoppers are still in the market for a vehicle–and planning to buy

According to our data, 87% of respondents expect to purchase later than they initially planned to. However, most are just waiting for economic activity to resume. Despite the fact that 43% say they’ve been negatively impacted financially by the crisis, only 6% who were planning to buy this year have delayed their plans indefinitely. But even among those planning to delay their purchase, 68% are still actively researching.

Consumers’ use of public transportation and ridesharing services is going to change

Of the respondents who relied on ridesharing services pre-pandemic, 51% plan to decrease their use of these services—or stop using them entirely—once economic activity resumes. It’s a similar story among prior public transportation users—54% expect to cut back or stop using it. Instead, 65% of those who will lower their usage plan to increase the use of their personal vehicle. Additionally, 42% expect to purchase a new vehicle as a result of changing their habits. For dealers, there’s a real opportunity to connect with these shoppers and help them find the right vehicle.

Shoppers are more open than ever to buying online

COVID-19 has driven consumers indoors—and online. Before the global health crisis, just 29% of car buyers said they were open to buying a vehicle online. Now, 60% are open to the idea. Dealers who are adopting digital retailing practices, such as online financing and trade-in valuations, will be best poised for success. COVID-19 will likely leave a lasting impact on the prospect of online retail and consumer’s in-store expectations.

Shoppers believe it’s safer to buy from a dealer than a private party right now

Good news for dealers: 67% of respondents say it’s safer to purchase from a dealership than a private party. That’s partly a result of popular contactless services like free home drop off and virtual appointments that dealers are able to provide. Dealers looking to capitalize on this sentiment and win more sales in the near-term should consider exclusive deals. Of those who plan to buy in 2020, 35% expect it to be a favourable time to buy because sellers will be offering deals that aren’t usually available.

Consumers are delaying car servicing

Among those that require vehicle servicing at the moment, the majority (68%) say they have delayed their service or plan to. That’s in part because shoppers’ expectations for sanitation have increased. Vehicle owners say they would feel more comfortable bringing their car in for servicing if dealers ensure the following measures are taken:

  • Adhering to recommended sanitation guidelines (66%)
  • Being transparent about the steps they’re taking to maintain cleanliness (59%)
  • Requiring mechanics to wear gloves and masks at all times (59%)

As today’s unprecedented situation evolves, our results show that it’s not all doom and gloom for dealers. Recovery will come—and with it, pent-up demand from shoppers looking to buy a vehicle this year.

Topics: CarGurus data, consumer sentiment, covid-19