Thursday, 14 May 2020 22:18

Auto Sales Down, But Not Lost, Survey Says

Written by Steven Finlay, Wards Auto
Madison Gross is director of consumer insights for CarGurus. Madison Gross is director of consumer insights for CarGurus.


Although many people are delaying vehicle purchases, they’re not shelving them altogether.

That’s among the findings of a CarGurus survey on how COVID-19 is affecting auto consumer behavior and intentions.


“While we are seeing delays in sales, those are not lost sales,” Madison Gross, CarGurus’ director of customer insights, told Wards.


The survey centers on consumers who either pre-pandemic had planned to buy a vehicle or, since then, plan to purchase one.


Nearly 80% of respondents expect to buy later than they initially planned.


But even as most people put plans on hold, 68% still are actively researching, according to the April survey of 722 shoppers by CarGurus, an online automotive marketplace.


Only 8% who were planning to buy this year before the pandemic hit now say they’ve delayed their plans indefinitely.


The survey indicates many potential car buyers simply are waiting for normal economic activity to return.


“Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on the automotive industry, our study showed that there are several bright spots among consumers who plan on purchasing a vehicle this year,” Gross said.


Economic uncertainty is cited as the biggest barrier to buy now. And economic hardships such as unemployment are keeping many would-be car consumers out of the market, whether they want a vehicle or not. About 40% of people in the survey say their finances have been negatively impacted by the crisis.


But Gross noted in certain circumstances a vehicle purchase is essential for many people. Nearly 70% of those planning to buy this year cited the purchase as a necessity.


Digital auto retailing has seen a surge, especially in states with stay-at-home mandates that bar dealership showroom visits.


But the current popularity of online vehicle buying might not last. The survey says that before the pandemic took hold:


  • 32% of car buyers were open to buying online. Now, 61% are.
  • 19% preferred buying online. Now, 39% do.
  • 36% preferred financing online. Now, 54% do.


The present-day gap between openness to (61%) and preference for (39%) online buying suggests many shoppers value and like the in-store experience, Gross said.

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