Coronavirus Pandemic Transforms Car Shopping and Buying Process, Says J.D. Power

Christian Wardlaw | Dec 10, 2020

According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, the coronavirus pandemic may have permanently altered the way consumers shop for and buy vehicles. When consumers had to stay at home and retail operations came to a temporary halt, dealerships and automakers rapidly adopted online tools to facilitate vehicle sales. Based on the SSI Study results, many car buyers liked the new way of doing business.

Coronavirus pandemic transforms car shopping

“The more shoppers are exposed to remote communication and actual online buying options, the more they may prefer these methods in the future over traditional showroom visits to wade through inventory and negotiate,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power. “In fact, nearly one in four buyers say their purchase experience during the pandemic will make them less likely to shop in person in the future, indicating that digital retail processes are here to stay.”

The SSI Study examined numerous elements of digital retail and remote buying operations, including the abilities to:

  • Select a vehicle from inventory
  • Agree on a purchase price
  • Receive credit approval
  • Review F&I products
  • Complete purchase paperwork

Of special note, the study found that satisfaction in customers who were able to agree on a purchase price online was 42 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than in those who were not. Furthermore, customers who completed most of their paperwork online were also the most satisfied. Both findings suggest that these negotiation and purchase tools will continue in the post-pandemic era, according to J.D. Power.

The SSI Study also found that Lincoln dealerships ranked highest in satisfaction this year, just ahead of Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Among mainstream brands, Mini led in terms of satisfaction, ahead of GMC and Buick. Often, GMC and Buick models are sold by the same dealership.

J.D. Power is the source of information in this article. It was accurate on December 10, 2020, but it may have changed since that date.

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