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

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on April 23, 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 behaviors. 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, 79% of respondents expect to purchase later than they initially planned to. However, most are just waiting for economic activity to resume. Despite record jobless claims, the ups and downs of the stock market, and the onset of a recession, only 8% who were planning to buy this year have delayed their plans indefinitely. Even among those delaying their purchase, 68% are currently actively researching.

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

Many people who relied on ridesharing services and public transportation pre-pandemic expect to decrease their use of these services—or stop using them entirely—once economic activity resumes. Instead, 49% of those who will lower their usage plan to increase the use of their personal vehicle. Additionally, 41% 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 32% of car buyers said they were open to buying a vehicle online. Now, 61% are open to the idea. However, many shoppers still value and miss the in-store experience—only 39% would prefer to buy online. Still, COVID-19 will likely leave a lasting impact on the prospect of online retail and consumers’ in-store expectations.

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

Good news for dealers: 61% 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 at-home test drives 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, 37% expect it to be a favorable 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, over half (54%) say they have delayed their service or plan to. That’s 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 CDC guidelines (66%)
  • Being transparent about the steps they’re taking to maintain cleanliness (55%)
  • Requiring mechanics to wear gloves and masks at all times (51%)

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