In March 2020, during the early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, American carmakers General Motors (GM), Ford Motor, and Fiat Chrysler closed their plants. Their employees’ unions demanded this to protect workers against the spread of COVID-19.
Another reason that prompted the closure was that there were few buyers. People were anxious about the pandemic and held on to their money. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan also closed their factories in the U.S.
By the fourth quarter of 2020, though, carmakers saw an increase in sales for new vehicles, with 4.8 percent for GM, 9.4 percent for Toyota, and 10.8 percent for Volkswagen.
Still, overall brand-new vehicle sales dropped by 15 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 and reached the lowest point since 2012. Dealers sold only 14.5 million cars and light trucks in 2020 compared to 17.1 million in 2019.
Car manufacturers are optimistic that more people will be buying cars in 2021 as vaccinations are being rolled out, and the job market improves.
Gains of Used Car Dealerships
Used car dealers profited from the short-term closure of car manufacturing in the early part of the pandemic.
With new cars less available and people apprehensive about using public transport amid the pandemic, prices of used cars increased.
According to Automotive News, prices of used vehicles nationwide increased by 1.23 percent in January this year compared to December 2020. That represents a 15 percent increase from January 2020.
The increase in prices of used vehicles means the value of trade-in vehicles increases, as well. This can be an incentive for owners to trade in their cars for a used car of a better model.
Used car dealers supplement their sales with car repair and maintenance services. People who buy used cars need this service to ensure that they get the most life out of their vehicles.
How to Sell Cars in a Pandemic
It is interesting to note that during the coronavirus pandemic, people shopped online not just for groceries and other dry goods but even for cars.
Both brand-new car dealers and used car dealers can benefit from the services of a professional automotive marketing agency to navigate this new selling field.
Prospective buyers can pick out their preferred vehicle from a website that presents the entire inventory of a dealership and the specific features of each vehicle. It will help have a chat function on the website where a salesperson can reply to a visitor’s queries in real-time.
You can accept loan applications and do credit approval online. Some dealers offer 24-hour vehicle loan processing to entice customers further.
Brand-new and used car dealers must not ignore this selling opportunity in tandem with having a physical showroom or lot. Consumers are undergoing a paradigm shift right now, and experts foresee that online purchasing behavior will continue even after the resolution of the pandemic.
Marketing and advertising can be highly effective through social media, where people spend much of their time amid COVID-19. Dealers can explore establishing partnerships with social media influencers of their target market. The term “influencer” comes from their powerful influence on the behavior of their followers, and this includes purchasing behavior.
The physical store is still necessary because some customers will still want to look at the available choices in person and test drive their options. A shop is also necessary if a dealership is offering vehicle repair and maintenance services.
When receiving customers, it is important to comply with all the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. All employees must wear masks. It would be good to have sealed masks ready to offer to customers who arrive unmasked. There must be alcohol dispensers available at convenient spots. Disinfect all surfaces before and after customers, and staff touch them.
Analysts observe that many people are buying sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks that they can take on off-road trips during the pandemic. People feel cramped while confined at home, but it is not safe to go out in crowded urban areas. They are, therefore, venturing into the great outdoors with no one else around to enjoy the sun, the fresh air, and a wide expanse of space.
Among consumers who have high spending power, sales of premium sports cars surged. Analysts conclude that people who can afford it are buying their dream cars to make up for their difficulties from the pandemic.
Consumers with lower spending capacities who need to go back to work but are afraid of public transportation will use car dealerships.
This year is looking good for the car dealership business despite COVID-19. Rising from the losses in the early part of the pandemic, dealers of brand-new and used vehicles will have good sales.