Some consumers may be delaying vehicle purchases this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they're not necessarily out of the market altogether.
That's one of the takeaways in a new shopper survey released last week by vehicle listings company CarGurus. Here's another one: Consumers' interest in completing more of their car deal online hasn't waned in the months since COVID-19 cases first surged in the U.S.
A quarter of consumers surveyed in February said they'd like to negotiate prices online. By April, 65 percent were saying that; in June, 63 percent. And just 19 percent of survey respondents wanted to complete an online purchase in February, compared with 39 percent in April and 37 percent in June.
These findings suggest that customers aren't abandoning these options now that they again can visit a showroom in person.
Dealership technology company Cars.com on Monday called the digital dealership a trend that will continue post-pandemic. The company said dealerships' requests for Online Shopper, a digital retailing tool offered by its Dealer Inspire unit, more than tripled in April from March, when COVID-19 cases first prompted a wave of state restrictions on in-person activity.
In quarterly earnings calls last week, two of the nation's publicly traded auto retailers — AutoNation Inc. and Lithia Motors Inc. — highlighted plans to use technology to offer customers more digital choices. Lithia, for one, plans to roll out its online strategy around a national brand it's calling Driveway, expected to be both a revenue driver and a way to help its dealerships maintain higher productivity.
For dealership groups that have incorporated more digital and remote services since March, sustained consumer interest for virtual car deals, at-home test drives and remote vehicle deliveries makes for a compelling business case.