For automotive retail, positive signs of recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic may have come quicker than expected, but uncertainty still abounds in the months ahead. In the meantime, the retail and wholesale channels are likely permanently changed.
That's the sentiment of leaders in the sector who spoke with Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein for the sixth installment of the weekly "Congress Conversations" video series.
"In the past several weeks, we've seen a ramp-up in sales volume," said Doug Ekizian, managing director at PwC Consumer Finance Group. Whether the pace of the rebound continues over the next several months is a key question, he added. The recovery will differ based on geography and likely will be "much different" from that seen in other economic downturns, Ekizian said.
Cox Automotive CEO Sandy Schwartz said retailers are seeing pent-up demand. Dealers he's spoken with report their sales are 70 to 80 percent of typical volumes, up from just 20 to 30 percent early in the crisis. Some even anticipate their May results could match year-ago volumes, he said.
But Schwartz, too, wondered whether that rate of recovery can be sustained. For dealers, it largely will depend on having the right inventory at the right price, he said. The crisis's economic impact on consumers also will play a large role.
"We know people need transportation — they need affordable transportation, but it's going to really depend on how jobs come back and whether people can afford cars," Schwartz said. "But the signs are very encouraging, earlier than I thought they would be, so far in terms of the retail landscape."