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Car Buyers Want a No-Touch Experience

Online tools and video chats challenge the new-car showroom
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Forget about kicking the tires.

Most new-car buyers in the U.S. today would prefer to avoid visiting a dealership entirely, according to a KPMG survey.

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New Car Buyer Habits

The poll of 2,500 adults finds that plenty of would-be customers are still eager to buy. But results suggest that 75% of these prospects favor a no-touch experience that taps online tools and video chats to handle everything from trade-ins to taking home delivery.

Here’s a surprise: Respondents who planned to purchase within six months before the pandemic began are now slightly more likely to buy.

Not so surprising: Half of those intenders say the COVID-19 scare has caused them to delay their purchase decision by three months or more.

Car Dealers Test Remote Selling

The study notes new-car showroom traffic and retail sales in the U.S fell by roughly two-thirds in March. But it has leveled off since then. KPMG suggests that’s because dealers are trying out new ways to sell to customers remotely during a period of stay-home and facility lockdown orders.

Certainly, consumer interest is there. Yes, four out of five consumers won’t buy a car without a physical test drive. And yes, nearly half of that group still wants to do so by visiting a dealership.

But almost half of respondents say they’d rather have a test vehicle brought to them. And 5% are willing to forgo the physical stuff and simply take a virtual test drive.

After they choose a vehicle, 75% of respondents tell KPMG they want to wrap up the paperwork and take delivery without visiting a dealership.

Next-Generation Selling

A yen for online processing is no passing fad, according to the report. It notes that some experts predict as many as 90% of U.S. new-car dealers will be fully e-commerce ready by the end of this year.

As lockdown restrictions lift, KPMG says consumers will be more likely than ever to expect to be able to handle most, if not all, aspects of the buying process remotely.

The next step, the study suggests, is for carmakers to integrate their own product-oriented websites with emerging dealer-level digital sales tools.

Doing so, says KPMG, could help brands capture budding demand. It might even reduce the need for the usual sales incentives typical of previous economic slumps.

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