Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, car dealers were already facing questions about what the future of the industry would look like. With consumers’ preferences changing and advancements in digital retailing strategies continuing to be made, many have been at least starting to think about tactics like online financing and home delivery. But the current health crisis has accelerated many of these trends, and today’s dealers must adapt to a new normal.
Like most businesses across the country, dealers have been taking more proactive steps to ensure consumers’ safety at the dealership, rearranging showroom layouts to support social distancing, increasing cleaning measures, and more. According to CarGurus COVID-19 Sentiment Study, among current prospective buyers, top expectations for dealer visits to purchase or service a vehicle include:
The current pandemic has had an economic impact on nearly every sector and the auto industry is no exception. It’s left many car dealers feeling the need to tighten their belts in terms of marketing spend. But whether you just had your strongest month yet or sales are a slow trickle at your dealership, your digital marketing investment should remain a priority.
Here are three mistakes you should avoid making with your marketing during today’s pandemic.
One of the most recent issues in the auto industry that’s come to light due to COVID-19 is the tightening of credit among banks. In under 15 minutes, I’ll discuss how these changes in financing and lending impact car shoppers—and what that means for dealers. Watch this video to learn:
Whether it’s due to a vehicle breaking down, a new commute, a growing family, or any number of reasons, a vehicle purchase is essential for many. That’s held true even during the current health crisis: 68% of those planning to buy this year cited the purchase as necessary, according to the CarGurus COVID-19 Sentiment Study in April. However, months later and our follow-up study found that about half (48%) of car shoppers aren’t as confident in their ability to afford a vehicle as a result of the pandemic.
As a result of consumers’ dwindling confidence, demand for financing is increasing. Before the pandemic, 49% of car buyers planned to finance their purchase. Now, 60% plan to or have already done so. Additionally, around one-third of those considering financing lost confidence in their ability to get approved (33%) and the financing rate they’d expect (34%).
As consumers emerge from lockdown, change travel plans, and reconsider what mobility will look like in the long-term, vehicles are becoming even more vital to everyday life, according to our latest COVID-19 Sentiment Study in the US. In fact, one-third of those surveyed said they expect to use their car more going forward than before the pandemic.
In the near-term, 49% of respondents say they see their car as an escape or for fun. Additionally, 45% say they expect to use their car for more road trips or longer drives, while 72% of those planning to travel this year say they intend to drive, rather than fly, for at least one trip.
In around 10 minutes CarGurus Director of Economic and Industry Analysis George Augustaitis discusses what’s going on in the new vehicle market. Watch this video to learn:
- How new vehicles in different price buckets are recovering
- Where shoppers who’ve left the new vehicle market are going
- What you can do to adapt to today’s unique selling environment
Automotive sales, both used and new, typically follow a seasonal sales pattern. The first sales spike of the year occurs in March and is fueled by a combination of factors, including economic tailwinds (tax refunds and annual bonus payments) and increased OEM spend on incentives as brands close the fiscal year or react to the competition. CarGurus US used lead submission data has always followed a similar seasonality path.
However, it should come as no surprise that COVID-19 has completely changed seasonality in the markets. This year, lead submissions fell off a cliff at the end of March, with nearly every state hitting a low between March 27 and April 11. During that time period, jobless claims climbed to all-time highs, consumer sentiment fell 17.3 points to 71.8, and other economic indicators saw major disruption. Additionally, companies completed first rounds of layoffs, and businesses like dealerships shut down in many places due to state restrictions. All of this uncertainty and turmoil, plus the risk of contracting the virus, contributed to the steep decline in leads and sales.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The data shows that most states rebounded quickly after reaching their trough with lead submissions beginning to recover mid-April and continuing until the middle of June. However, state-by-state recovery has been as unique as each state’s handling of COVID-19.
As a follow-up to the Consumer Sentiment Study we presented in April, CarGurus surveyed an additional 779 shoppers in June to see how their feelings toward car shopping have changed during the pandemic. Overall, the study shows that despite lingering near-term delays in car purchases, most sales are not expected to be lost in the long term. Here are the key takeaways for dealers – or you can read the full report here.
Historically, consumers have turned to the used vehicle market during recessionary times as an alternative to a new vehicle purchase. That’s because used cars tend to be more affordable, allowing consumers to avoid the burden of a high monthly payment when money might be tight.
But there’s another factor driving the current shift to the used vehicle market—in particular, Certified Pre-Owned vehicles (CPOs)—and that’s low days’ supply of new inventory. The shortage of new vehicles is a result of plants remaining closed, and it’s making it difficult for consumers to find the specific new cars they want. While new and used vehicle sales posted double-digit losses in June, CPO sales posted an increase of 8.5% as compared to June 2019.
Calling all dealers driving difference in their community! Share your story to win a Back-to-Business Kit
Even during the current health crisis, you’ve been there to help your community. Delivering meals to hospital staff, providing free oil changes for frontline workers, and more. Now, it’s time you get rewarded for it.
CarGurus wants to celebrate the dealers driving difference in their community—and help them get back to business quickly—which is why we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our Driving Difference contest.