The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered dealership showrooms around the world, forcing many to conduct business online. It's a massive shift, but one automakers, dealers, and industry experts are uncertain to what degree will remain once the pandemic is over. No one can predict the long-term side effects the coronavirus will have on people and their behavior, and finding consensus about the future of the car-buying experience isn't easy.
In Reuters, Mark LaNeve, Ford's U.S. sales chief, said he thinks "a big chunk" of car sales will continue to happen online after the pandemic. The automaker has increased support for its online shopping and sales tools for dealers. LaNeve said the coronavirus has "turbo charged [sic]" dealers and customers adapting to the online sales process. However, not everyone is convinced the shift will linger.
A Ford Australia spokesperson told CarAdvice that their research shows there won't be a permanent shift to online sales after the pandemic, saying that the final decision to buy a car isn't made until they test drive the vehicle. "For that reason, we don't see a permanent shift to online sales just yet," the spokesperson added.
The Australian Automotive Dealers Association holds similar sentiments, telling the publication that it believes "There are still many consumers who just do not feel comfortable buying a vehicle without completing part of the transaction at the dealership." The dealer association did note there could be an increase in the number of people open to an online transaction; however, it "believes the dealership is an important part of the car buying process."
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For now, many dealership showrooms are still closed. Sales have sharply fallen and will likely continue to do so. Ford saw first-quarter car sales fall 36 percent, and SUV sales dropped 11 percent, according to Reuters. The coronavirus has also shuttered production plants and forced automakers to send employees to work from home. However, automakers, local