Auto shoppers are reverting to some pre-pandemic habits but are surprisingly happy with their deals, while high gas prices may have boosted interest in electric vehicles, but that interest is not not translate into sales. Those are some of the key findings from a new consumer study released Wednesday by automotive research and shopping site CarGurus.com.
The survey, titled “2022 Consumer Insight Report” is based on responses from 3,008 “recent auto consumers” split between buyers and sellers last April and May, with an additional 600 sellers surveyed in July.
The auto buying process had already begun to shift to a more digital experience even before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in March 2020, but once showrooms closed and buyers stayed at home, this change accelerated.
But the CarGurus study reveals that consumers aren’t quite ready to give up driving to the dealership altogether.
“What we’ve seen is that interest in doing more from home is still very high, in fact, even higher than last year: 70% of shoppers say they want to do more from home, compared to 60% last year,” said Alexandra Howerter. , CarGurus Senior Consumer Insights Analyst. “But the number of shoppers who want to do it entirely from home has remained the same, at just 59%. The test drive remains a very big deterrent. They always find it very important to get a first-hand view of the car.
At one time, a dealership’s location was important to consumers who preferred to do business closer to home or work. But the survey found that it’s now all about the bottom line, with 50% citing price as the main reason for choosing a dealership. Location came in fourth with just 24% tying their dealer choice to location, compared to 30% in the 2021 study.
One of the main side effects of the pandemic is the shortage of inventory on dealer lots due to production delays caused by supply chain interruptions. This has led automakers to forego incentives and other offers because they have less metal to move.
With fewer discounts, it would follow that buyers would be unhappy with their offers. But the CarGurus study surprisingly indicates that this is not the case.
“We expected customer satisfaction with the perception of the deal to take a hit, but 80% thought they got a good or good deal,” Howerter told Forbes.com. “Really interesting, the number one reason was the ease of the process. This highlights how important it is to provide this streamlined experience. Not just speed of sales, but satisfaction with the transaction itself. »
Gasoline prices have fallen, but they are still high. This situation has led to greater consumer interest in vehicles that do not run on gasoline, or at least less. So far, sales are not keeping pace with considerations.
According to the study, 35% said they were considering a hybrid vehicle but only bought one. Meanwhile, 22% said they were considering a battery electric vehicle, but only 5% bought one.
The intention, however, is growing. In the study, 40% said they plan to own an electric car within the next five years and 60% said they will make the switch within the next decade. This compares to 30% and 52% respectively in last year’s study.
Interest in plug-in hybrid vehicles is also growing, with 36% saying they expect to buy one in the next five years, up from 26% last year, and 47%, in the next 10, up from 37% in 2021.
Truck owners are notoriously loyal to what they’ve always driven, but the survey reveals a slight crack in that intransigence, with 28% of truck owners saying they plan to go electric in the next five years, while 43% said they would probably make the switch. within 10.
What’s stopping others from seriously giving up gasoline for electricity? Howerter says these are the usual concerns about battery life, charging station availability and charging speed.
“Buyers say one of the most impactful things the industry could do is just make more charging stations available in their area,” Howerter said. “They see them in their usual places like the grocery store. They imagine what it would be like to have an EV on a daily basis. It would go a long way in terms of adoption.
Regardless of the powertrain, when it’s time to get rid of the old vehicle for something new, the best method is still the old way of trading it in at a dealership because it’s easier to sell and to buy in one place.
Overall, 50% of respondents said they sold their last vehicle at a dealership, 28% did so online, and 23% sold privately. But 80% said they were open to selling online, while instant cash offers to trigger a sale grew more popular both online and offline.
Why do consumers decide to buy a new vehicle? The main reason cited in the survey was an “upgrade”. But Howerter says having to deal with the sacrifices brought on by the pandemic can cause people to reward themselves a bit, saying, “A lot of people say they’re just ready for something new or ready to treat themselves. ”