MiVirtual Dealer

Coronavirus pushes auto dealers to embrace online sales like Tesla, Carvana

Following Tesla, Carvana

While Tesla and Carvana, an online used car sales company, have been selling vehicles online for years, U.S. auto retailers have essentially used the internet as a tool to bring people into the dealership, not to sell vehicles.

Many saw online sales as a threat to their showrooms; however, the coronavirus is changing that. Automakers are rolling out new online sales tools or enhancing current programs for dealers, as they view online sales as one of their last chances for salvation during the pandemic.

Fiat Chrysler, for example, launched a new online sales program this month that allows customers to partially, if not completely, go through the sales process online. As with Carvana and Tesla, the purchased vehicle can be delivered to their home without them ever stepping foot in a dealership.

“While you’re staying at home, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t be online shopping like you do, whether it’s Amazon or other online retailers,” Mark Stewart, chief operating officer of North America for Fiat Chrysler. “We want to have a process so our customers can do so as well.”

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Author: Michael Wayland (CNBC)

Coronavirus has dealerships moving to online sales — and car buying may never be the same

The way we buy cars may never be the same, as auto dealers adjust to working under COVID-19 restrictions and customers discover they prefer the new approach, which leans heavily on internet sales and vehicle demos and could include valet-style pickup and delivery service for everything from test drives to oil changes.

“This is going to fundamentally change how people view buying a car,” said Rhett Ricart, CEO of Ricart Automotive Group in Columbus, Ohio, and chairman of the National Auto Dealers Association.

“By the end of this year, you’re going to see 80%-90% of U.S. new car dealers with full e-commerce capability in their shops” to handle everything online but the test drive and — maybe — the final signature, he said. Online deals at Ricart’s domestic dealerships have doubled during the last six weeks, he said.

“We’re seeing a fundamental change in the way cars will be sold,” said Doug North, owner of North Bros. Ford in Westland and chairman of the North American International Auto Show.

“This pandemic is going to create some permanent changes.”

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Author: Mark Phelan (Detroit Free Press)

As coronavirus spreads, dealers stay open for business

With gatherings canceled and people told to work from home, car shoppers are wary.

So in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Jeff Wyler Automotive Family, a 15-store group in Milford, Ohio, is pushing its online shopping tools and home delivery service.

“If they don’t want to come to us, we’ll go to them,” said Marketing Director Kevin Frye.

And it appears there are plenty of consumers who don’t want to spend time at dealerships as the outbreak worsens. Some dealers last week reported declines in customer traffic and sales. Mass cancellations of public gatherings, from conventions to classrooms, and the advice from health officials to stay home are likely to only further compress shopping activity. The rocky financial markets — the stock market officially entered bear territory last week — also are expected to take a toll on consumers considering big-ticket vehicle purchases.

Some industry forecasters have cut new-vehicle sales predictions. Cox Automotive no longer forecasts sales topping 16 million vehicles in 2020 and says they could tumble as low as the mid-14 million range.

New-vehicle sales in North America already have taken a hit, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of Power Information Network operations for J.D. Power. Sales are down an extra 10 percentage points compared with the rest of the world, he said.

Sales nationally dropped about 10 percent during that period, but that was in line with J.D. Power’s previous prediction for March, Jominy said. 

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Author: MELISSA BURDEN (Automotive News)