What the Current Situation Means for Online Car Shopping

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The recent developments in the automotive industry amid the coronavirus pandemic may be setting a new norm for car shoppers.

As automakers announce their decision one by one to temporarily halt operations in various facilities and dealers rush to adopt online shopping tools while people are encouraged to shelter-in-place, it is growing more and more likely for online car shopping to become mainstream.

Prior to the spread of the virus, dealers in the United States were generally not ready to take their businesses online. But this has changed greatly in the last few weeks as customers were ordered to stay away from showrooms in the meantime.

While there are still a lot of car dealerships that remain open even in states where shelter-in-place orders are in effect, a vast majority of customers were revealed to prefer online options for their car shopping needs these days.

Man shopping online using credit card
The National Auto Dealers Association expects “80 to 90 percent” of dealers to have e-commerce capability by the end of the year.

Now, dealers are being forced to review their strategies despite earlier resistance to the idea.

Car sales have fallen by 37 percent in March and are predicted to further dip this month as more people lose jobs while others prefer to hold off on their car purchasing plans until the current situation has stabilized.

But, according to Michelle Denogean, chief marketing officer at Roadster, a company that mainly sells a platform of tools to help dealers sell cars online, the sales decline can be attributed to the fact that there was only about 20 percent of car dealerships that had online shopping tools prior to the pandemic’s spread in the U.S.

In the next few weeks that followed, Roadster apparently received four times more calls than usual from various dealers and manufacturers looking to adopt its platform. This was backed by a statement from Rhett Ricart, chairman of the National Auto Dealers Association, saying that he expects “80 to 90 percent” of dealers to have e-commerce capability by the end of the year.

So, could this be a sign that online car shopping is going to be the next big thing in America? Possibly. But there are still a lot of things that could happen in the next few months. For now, all customers can do is wait.

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Staff Writers

In the Garage with is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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