Pandemic Has Affected, But Not Always Delayed, New Car Shoppers

A majority of car shoppers do not expect the worldwide pandemic’s effects to delay their new vehicle purchases.

Research from Comscore shows how COVID-19 has impacted auto shopping behavior. While nearly three-in-four consumers who planned to purchase a new vehicle in the next six months agreed that the pandemic changed their plans in some way, most believed it would not alter their timeline for making a purchase.

In its latest State of Automotive survey, Comscore surveyed respondents who had plans to buy or lease a new or used vehicle (intenders) to understand how COVID-19 has changed the automotive shopping landscape and contributed to shifts in consumer behaviors.

While a third of intenders reported that they expected the pandemic and resulting economic situation to delay their research and subsequent purchasing timeline, not all shoppers were deterred. Comscore found that 55% of intenders reported that they expected no timeline change due to the pandemic, and 27% reported that it had not changed their plans to purchase a vehicle at all.

In fact, 13% of intenders expected their research timeline to shorten because of the new deals and customer assistance available for new vehicle purchases.

U.S. auto sales have seen a robust revival from the lows of April 2020, primarily due to a combination of actions taken by automakers to support and incentivize consumers financially, along with the durable interest and flexibility of more affluent consumers, according to the report. Those less economically impacted by the pandemic planned to purchase at their convenience and take advantage of new offers.

Beyond financial supports, automakers also empowered their dealer networks to adopt new COVID-safe and convenient services to keep consumers comfortable and ease potential sales roadblocks. Among the most promising offerings, according to survey respondents, were new online retail experience sites and tools that allow consumers to shop, get quotes, seek loans, purchase and set up home delivery of new vehicles, all from the safety and convenience of their homes.

Nearly half of intenders (48%) in 2020 were interested in shopping for and purchasing a car completely online, a 10-point increase from 2019.

“Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, consumers remain ready to buy—even larger purchases, like vehicles—as long as they’re motivated in the right way,” said Dennis Bulgarelli, vice president, Auto, Comscore. “That means in the near-term, automakers must continue strategizing and innovating to meet the distinct needs of different consumer types. Even as life begins to return to normal, consumers will have adopted new habits, preferences and expectations about what services are available—and they likely won’t take kindly to a revocation of the now-standard conveniences. Brands across the spectrum will have to be ready and informed to keep delivering value.”

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