The Driveway Becomes the Dealer Lot: Trend to Continue in 2021

Last year, 57% of car buyers conducted most of their vehicle purchases online, according to an August survey from Cars.com.

Several of those buyers decided on contactless home delivery from their local dealership.

That is one of the top five trends advancing the auto space in 2021 and beyond, according to Cars.com, which said the COVID-19 pandemic forever altered car buying and selling.

As Americans continue to spend more time at home and online, place a premium on the freedom of car ownership, and think more about affordability and electric vehicles, changes will continue this year, Cars.com said

A new wave of first-time car buyers is emerging. Affordability has gained importance for consumers. Electric vehicles could have a big year in 2021. Those are some additional upcoming trends, according to Cars.com.

“In the new virtual-first environment, digital platforms have significantly increased in importance for small businesses across the country, dealerships included, as the need persists to virtually connect with at-home shoppers,” chief executive officer Alex Vetter said in a news release.

Vetter also said, “The new year will bring fast and persistent adaptation in our industry as consumers continue to rely on cars as an extension of their homes, and look for frictionless digital experiences from their local dealerships.”

Cars: Still the main method of transportation

Regarding the trend involving the emergence of a new wave of car buyers, Cars.com sourced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as stating that cars are the safest transportation option during the pandemic. A Cars.com August survey showed nearly half of respondents continue to rely less on mass transit and ride-sharing services.

A March CARS consumer panel survey showed that nearly 20% of Americans who previously did not own a car are considering purchasing one.

The main method of transportation will continue to be the car, even as consumers return to life outside the house.

Regarding the trend mentioned earlier about the driveway becoming the dealer lot as consumers conduct most of their vehicle purchases online, Cars.com said at-home delivery of vehicles and trading in vehicles from the driveway will become more mainstream in 2021.

The company said that since April, more than 10 million vehicles on Cars.com have been available for home delivery from U.S. dealers. That represents approximately 30% of the total inventory listed on the site.

In addition, half of Cars.com dealer customers are offering home delivery services, according to Cars.com Internal Data.

Another trend: Virtual selling is streamlining car buying. Cars.com said the increase in dealership adoption of digital tools and technology means car shoppers can expect more of the purchase process to take place on virtual selling platforms.

Those include chat, video, and dealer websites.

Stay-at-home consumers are the main reason for the advancement of those platforms, shifting them from communications tools to selling tools. According to Cars.com Consumer Metrics Q4 2020, more than 70% of consumers want to conduct at least some parts of the purchase online.

Wanted: More comfortably priced vehicles

Regarding the affordability trend, the same Consumer Metrics study showed that approximately 45% of new-car shoppers are interested in vehicles priced at more than $30,000.

Almost 40% of used-car buyers are interested in cars under $10,000.

Low-interest rates and favorable credit conditions are helping to bring lower monthly payments for buyers, but because of lean vehicle inventory conditions, prices for new and used cars are unusually high.

Shoppers as a result want more comfortably priced vehicles.

Regarding the electric vehicle trend, advancement in EVs is taking place with federal support and evolving technology. Because the incoming administration supports the EV market with consumer incentives, infrastructure plans, and federal fleet purchases, that could mean a strong year for EVs, according to Cars.com.

Tech companies such as Apple are rumored to enter the EV market, Cars.com said. Automakers such as Hyundai, Ford, and GM have said they plan significant investment and expansion of their EV platforms.

“It’s clear the race for EV domination is on,” Cars.com said.

Vetter said positive momentum is expected this year for EVs. But according to Cars.com internal data, hybrids and EV searches made up less than 1% of total site searches on Cars.com last year. That could mean a long road ahead before mainstream EV adoption takes place, Vetter said.

Regarding all of the trends Cars.com mentioned as advancing the auto space in 2021 and beyond, Vetter said, “America’s car dealers are well-positioned to meet these expectations head-on as technology takes center stage, and we welcome this new era of digital car buying and selling.”

Source: The driveway becomes the dealer lot: Trend to continue in 2021