Over the past few months, the auto world has witnessed dramatic changes. From manufacturing plants running idle to top brands pivoting their production to create PPE and ventilators, it’s safe to say there hasn’t been a dull moment for the auto industry since March. Relaxed guidelines and eased restrictions in many states however are propelling the country into a so-called ‘new normal’, leaving companies across a variety of industries to react and adapt accordingly. So, how are auto dealers – and the auto industry in general – faring?
It’s not ‘business as usual’
As AutoWeek noted in a new report, most auto manufacturers take a couple of weeks off every summer season to perform maintenance and retool for new production. This year however, things have changed. As the auto industry is getting back to work, plans to idle plants for regular summer maintenance have been waylaid for the foreseeable future to give brands extra time to get back on pace and play catch-up.
The plants themselves are also undergoing stringent changes to protocol to comply with new and emerging safety standards. Social distancing, screening, and mandatory PPE is the new norm, and many employees are still doing their jobs from home.
Brands tap into nostalgia
When the going gets tough, people tend to look back toward simpler times, and now is no exception. Automakers are tapping into that nostalgia in their own way.
A certain section of the auto industry is looking toward the past help with future sales. Brands like Toyota, Ford, and Land Rover are releasing new, amped up versions of 90s favorites like the Supra, Bronco 4×4, and Defender. The brands are hoping to hit it off with buyers who either owned a previous model in decades past, or who grew up surrounded by sports cars like the Supra in film and video games.
Time will tell if these new versions of old fan favorites land a win for these brands. Faced with a sluggish economy and more frugal shoppers, the market isn’t exactly boding well for the auto industry as a whole.
People are heading back to auto dealers
A few months ago, everyone predicted that the future of car sales would be entirely virtual. And to keep up, many auto dealers pivoted their businesses to e-commerce to keep their businesses afloat. But, as stay-at-home orders lift across the country, people are heading back to dealerships in droves.
In California alone, auto dealers have already recovered 50% of lost foot traffic – and the numbers seem to be rising. Apparently, people don’t hate going to car dealerships as much as we previously thought. Although, we could explain the sudden rise in foot traffic as consumer boredom. Either way, the bounce-back has surprised a lot of auto dealers, who expected virtual car sales moving forward.
Don’t expect e-commerce offerings to drift away any time soon though. Many are jumping at the opportunity to walk around a dealership and view cars in person. However, online car buying will still be a big draw for a lot of consumers, especially in pandemic hot spots.