Topic: industry analysis
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.
Not only were vehicle sales in May up from April, they were better than expected—a welcome surprise for the automotive sector. The increased sales numbers came after COVID-19 caused dealership closures, a shift to online sales and appointments, declining confidence in job security, and one of the largest stimulus programs in the history of the US. And while many view these sales results as a leading indicator of growth in the sector, the better-than-expected sales numbers were more likely a result of pent-up demand and market tailwinds.
Below, I’ll dive into the five tailwinds propelling sales numbers the most.
For the past five years, the number of new vehicles coming off lease has continued to increase. So much so that many in the automotive industry expected a decline in prices because of the rising supply. However, because the mix of vehicles coming off lease favored the more expensive SUVs and pickups, used vehicle prices have remained high. Even with a record number of off-lease vehicles coming back to the market this year and the used vehicle market flat YoY, used vehicle prices still would have only seen a slight decline. However, COVID-19 looks to have changed all of that.
Today, our Director of Automotive Industry and Economic Analysis, George Augustaitis, and our Director of Consumer Insights, Madison Gross, team up to take a look at how consumer sentiment is trending among CarGurus shoppers.
We first mentioned the importance of consumer sentiment when we kicked off this COVID-19 series, and we’re going to dive in a little deeper with it. This is an important indicator for the industry because if a consumer isn’t confident in the economy, their job stability, or their ability to find a new job, they will be less likely to make a big-ticket purchase, such as a vehicle. When confidence is low many consumers will turn to the used vehicle market due to the lower price points, but others will wait until they feel more positive about their job security and the economy.
Because consumer confidence and consumer sentiment numbers don’t fully reflect yet the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the economy, we’re running two polls on cargurus.com. These polls allow us to track and trend how CarGurus shoppers currently feel about the economy and their sentiment about its future.