Chase Auto

After two long years in a pandemic, it’s only natural for behaviors to change. For transportation, that’s certainly the case as vehicle ownership continues to revert toward personal vehicles over shared mobility, at least for the foreseeable term. Chase Auto surveyed 1,000 people who own or lease a vehicle, and the resulting data confirmed the trend. 

Among car owners, 45% say they are putting on fewer miles now than they did prior to the pandemic, but their view of owning a car is deemed more essential than ever. For the vast majority, having a personal vehicle was crucial to “reach essential destinations during the pandemic” and two in three felt they could maintain “financial freedom, opportunities and control” because of their vehicle. 

Respondents also indicated that, aside from a simple commute, that around 20% used their vehicles for their job. That figure is quite robust but may reflect a higher percentage of the population employed in the gig economy as delivery driver for food services or otherwise.

For recreation, vehicles play a huge part in Americans’ lives. More than half of respondents (53%) state that they plan to go on a road trip at some point this year. 

Peter Muriungi is the CEO of Chase Auto. He said, “The long-time American love of cars grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their vehicle put them in control, kept them safe, and got them to essential destinations. That’s why we’ll continue to finance purchases, no matter how and where consumers choose to buy.

“It’s important to understand the ways in which the automotive industry is evolving, and along with that, how people go about purchasing their cars,” Muriungi added. “This data shows us that consumers today expect digital and in-person experiences to co-exist. The key is figuring out how to offer the best of these two channels, so your customers feel confident and satisfied when they complete the purchase.” 

In-person shopping still preferred 

The survey also inquired about how vehicle owners prefer to shop for their vehicles, and the responses were overwhelmingly in favor of an in-person experience with the vehicle. As it relates to sales professionals, though, the results show a different trend. 

Nearly four in five shoppers want to lay their hands on the vehicle and perform a test drive, and “85% want to pick up their car at the dealership”. It’s representative of the important role the dealership network plays in consumer confidence while car shopping. 

Yet, just barely more than half of those surveyed wanted to speak with a salesperson in-person. It indicates that salespeople still haven’t gained much ground in building trust with consumers overall. In addition, consumers are more apt to research the vehicle they’re interested in online before ever calling or contacting the dealership where they’ll buy. When they contact the dealer, it’s about availability primarily.  

How it applies for dealerships 

Of course, today’s auto retail environment is closely tied to the amount of inventory a dealer has. Sellers can be confident that the coming months will bring high-intent shoppers to buy landed vehicles quickly, and with excellent margins. 

Dealers also need not worry excessively about a mass shift toward direct-to-consumer car sales since shoppers broadly trust the dealership model. However, there are plenty of opportunities to enhance the customer experience, which is clearly the case with only modest desire to speak with an agent face-to-face. Improving this area of trust is less about knowing the product and more closely focused on promoting the dealership and the salesperson themselves as trustworthy.

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