Air traffic volumes have tumbled much worse than the auto industry’s decline comparatively. Year over year, TSA screening volumes for April 2020 were 96 percent less than in April 2019. It’s a grim indication of the travel industry’s health as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic settle in for the long haul.

But what’s a terrible situation for the airlines worldwide is an opportunity for the automotive industry. With ground travel restrictions loosening and summer rapidly approaching, the travel bug has bitten millions of Americans. Their only option for taking a vacation or stay-cation? Hop in the family car and hit the highway.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses may still be awaiting the green light to open their doors, but there are destinations across the country ready to serve visitors. Kampgrounds of America, for instance, have reopened most campgrounds nationwide. Beaches in Florida and California have made headlines for the thousands of visitors lining the sandy shores. It’s personal vehicles that are taking people there. 

Drivers Miss Drivingdriving

A study by Hankook Tire revealed that 76 percent of Americans miss driving since COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world. The same survey respondents indicated that 60 percent of Americans want to spend more time on the road taking trips due to the pandemic. Almost half cancelled travel plans due to the coronavirus.

Although the sudden response by the country was beneficial and warranted, it forced 9 in 10 Americans to reconsider their travel plans. Now, nearly three in five are planning their next trip by car.

More SUV and Light Truck Sales

According to Statista, trucks and SUVs are the highest-volume units sold in the United States. the Ford F-Series pickups (896k units), Ram pickups (633k units), Chevrolet Silverado (575k units), Toyota RAV4 (448k units), and Honda CR-V (384k units) are the five best-selling vehicles, none of which have a reputation of being among the lowest-priced models on the market.

These trucks and SUVs are also the right fit for those hoping to take a road trip in an economy where fuel prices have bene suppressed for months. Financing rates are overwhelmingly low across the board with 0 percent over 84 months a common rate today. The combination of reasonable fuel prices, low rates with easy access to financing, and drivers itching to get out of the house and behind the wheel for a road trip means dealers will very likely see an increase in these models. 

Increased Service Business

And for customers that have a vehicle capable of road tripping across the state or country, servicing needs will increase. That’s especially true for those who have put off vehicle servicing while shut in for the pandemic response as non-essential workers, where their maintenance might be outstanding or smaller repairs have been delayed until it was deemed safe to go out.

For those who decide to take a trip by ground, it will decrease the time frame between service intervals as the mileage racks up. Again, that’s going to drive customers back into the service department for services like oil and filter changes, tire services and replacements, and fluid maintenance. At the same time, it accelerates customers toward warranty expiry and the choice between customer-pay repairs and a new vehicle purchase.

Americans love to drive, as the evidence shows. New vehicle dealers will be the beneficiaries of a short- to mid-term realignment of travel.


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.

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