As we just mentioned in a recent article, the likes of GM, FCA, and Hyundai are pioneering online new car sales, and it makes sense. The current COVID-19 pandemic has laid waste to the automotive industry like nothing else imaginable. The industry has survived economic downturns, scandals, manufacturing snafus, and even the demise of autoshows, but the in-person dealership model during a time of social distancing seems too much to withstand. Dealerships have been laying off staff, cutting crazy deals, and further incentivizing customers. Alas, it's not enough.
Just about every automaker has seen their Q1 sales plummet due to the pandemic, and it's no surprise. With social distancing, shelter-in-place, and even lockdown measures enacted, no one is going anywhere or buying anything shy of groceries and necessary supplies. A new car seems to be the last thing on everyone's mind, at least purchasing them in person, that is.
The dealership model is so antiquated and in desperate need of change, so the time seems right for dealers and manufacturers to make the change, at least in response to the dearth of sales during the pandemic. How many potential buyers have shied away from purchasing a car over the past few weeks because of the state of the nation, and how many manufacturers/dealers have missed out on crucial sales because they don't have an online program?
While there are obvious hurdles to developing a workable online program, the work manufacturers and dealers put in now will pay off in the long run, as well as in the short run. If customers could view cars online, fill out the paperwork, and have their new vehicle delivered, it would certainly change the game right now. It won't totally offset the loss from the Coronavirus, but it can certainly help mitigate things.
If you wonder how important the change is, a recent survey found that car shoppers really do want online purchasing options. The survey by CDK Global found, "Nearly 70% of shoppers expected to find the ability to configure a payment on a dealership website, and 83% indicated that online buying technology would help them narrow down their vehicle choice and determine what is affordable.”
It's high time this became a reality for everyone, including dealers, manufacturers, and customers. Dealerships, especially, need to train their staff to do more online and over the phone versus wasting their time trying to get gun-shy buyers in the door to do an in-person transaction. No one wants to haggle face-to-face anymore, anyway. And doing it with a face-mask on seems to detract from the whole process, anyway.