Disruption in parts supply, the need to social distance staff and customers, sanitization of vehicles before and after servicing, and numerous other COVID-19-related changes to business have been challenging the collision industry for over two months now.
Fortunately, the automotive industry was declared an essential service in most provinces, allowing body shops to keep their doors open. However, with less traffic on the road, every sector of the automotive industry has reported a decline in business.
But it is not all bad news. “Despite forecasts predicting a decline in light passenger vehicle sales for the year (20 to 25 percent globally), there is some potential good news on the horizon for the auto industry,” reported Ipsos, a global market research and public opinion specialist. “In Ipsos’ newly released, and now available, COVID-19 Impact on Auto Global Study, certain pre-COVID-19 vehicle intenders express more interest in buying a vehicle once the crisis is over so perhaps the decline won’t be as significant.”
A driving factor for this is personal safety and protection. With social distancing orders in place, it is speculated that there will be a decline in ride-sharing, car-pooling, and public transit, steering commuters toward personal transportation. With more vehicles purchased, there could be more cars on the road, which inevitably could mean more work for the automotive industry when these cars are in need of service or repairs.
“Safety in automotive decision making has always been an important factor, but clearly this is a shift towards safety by social distancing instead of sharing crowded public transportation,” reported Ipsos. “This key insight into the consumer mind should play heavily in upcoming and future automotive marketing messages.”
According to a survey Ipsos conducted, 55 percent of responders said they feel safer and more protected from the virus while driving their personal vehicles rather than other modes of transportation. 25 percent assume there will be greater deals to purchase or lease a new vehicle during this time. And, 20 percent responded that their current vehicle is getting too old to drive and they intend to purchase a new one.
This could indicate that despite economic uncertainty, owning and operating a vehicle will continue to be an essential way of life. “Almost one third of pre-COVID-19 US vehicle intenders stated they are more likely to purchase a vehicle once the COVID-19 outbreak is over compared to less than 20 percent showing a reduced interest to purchase,” Ipsos reported.
The study also indicated a digital shift in the automotive industry. Already many dealerships were offering online shopping but with social distancing, this has now become a necessary way to purchase a vehicle. “This virtual shopping experience is something the automotive industry has been experimenting with,” Ipsos reported. “The COVID-19 crisis has created an environment where virtual reality is the reality.”