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

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on May 5, 2020

To say COVID-19 has disrupted the auto industry is an understatement. The global pandemic is continuing to sweep the world, forcing car buyers 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 four key takeaways from the recently released CarGurus COVID-19 UK Sentiment Study that you can use to adapt your business strategy to today’s new normal.

Consumers 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 dealerships to reopen so they can pick up where they left off in their buying journey. Only 4% of consumers who were planning to buy this year before the pandemic have delayed their plans indefinitely. But even among those planning to delay their purchase, 75% are actively researching.

Consumers’ use of public transportation and ridesharing services will change dramatically

Of the respondents who relied on ridesharing or taxi services pre-pandemic, 48% 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—44% expect to cut back or stop using it. Instead, many expect to increase use of their personal vehicle or to buy a new one. Of people planning to decrease or eliminate their use of rideshares and taxis, 52% expect to buy a new vehicle as a result, compared to 32% of those decreasing or eliminating use of public transportation.

Buyers are more open than ever to buying online

COVID-19 has driven consumers indoors—and online. Before the global health crisis, just 36% of car buyers said they were open to buying a vehicle online. Now, 64% 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.

Buyers believe it’s safer to purchase from a dealer than a private party right now

Good news for dealers: 62% of respondents say it’s safer to purchase from a dealership than a private party. That’s likely a result of popular contactless services like free home drop off and virtual appointments that dealers are able to provide. Of those planning to buy this year, 78% would prefer that the seller offer contactless services. These services are particularly popular among UK consumers when compared to the US and Canadian markets.

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 buyers looking to purchase a vehicle this year.

Topics: CarGurus data, consumer sentiment, covid-19