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Wednesday, 15 April 2020 22:49

Coronavirus Has Dealerships Moving to Online Sales---and Car Buying May Never be the Same

Written by Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press
James Martin Chevrolet on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, seen here April 9, will be closed until April 14 due to the risk of the novel coronavirus. James Martin Chevrolet on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, seen here April 9, will be closed until April 14 due to the risk of the novel coronavirus. Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

The way we buy cars may never be the same, as auto dealers adjust to working under COVID-19 restrictions and customers discover they prefer the new approach, which leans heavily on internet sales and vehicle demos and could include valet-style pickup and delivery service for everything from test drives to oil changes.

“This is going to fundamentally change how people view buying a car,” said Rhett Ricart, CEO of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, OH, and chairman of the National Auto Dealers Association.

 

“By the end of this year, you’re going to see 80% to 90% of U.S. new car dealers with full e-commerce capability in their shops” to handle everything online but the test drive and---maybe---the final signature, he said.

 

Online deals at Ricart’s domestic dealerships have doubled during the last six weeks, he said.

 

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extended “stay home” order clears the way for that, after a month when nearly all vehicle sales were prohibited in the state. 

 

It allows "workers at motor vehicle dealerships who are necessary to facilitate remote and electronic sales or leases, or to deliver motor vehicles to customers, provided that showrooms remain closed to in-person traffic.”

 

Michigan dealers have been hoping and making plans for just such a change. Deliveries could begin as soon as they work out a process that addresses all the legal documents that are part of buying a vehicle.

 

“We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way cars will be sold,” said Doug North, owner of North Bros. Ford in Westland, MI, and chairman of the North American International Auto Show.

 

“This pandemic is going to create some permanent changes.”

 

We thank the Detroit Free Press for reprint permission. 

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