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How the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the automotive industry in the U.S.

buying a car
(© Kurhan – stock.adobe.com)

A few years ago, no one would have imagined that a pandemic would hit the world so hard that even the economies of wealthy countries would be significantly affected. Industries are finding ways to still thrive despite the surge in COVID-19 cases across the globe. With travel restrictions and partial or total lockdowns, the United States’ automotive industry has gone through many changes and adjustments.

Although overwhelmed by the pressure of supply and demand disruption, companies are stepping up to the challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic by finding ways to make sales. Companies are also taking advantage of technological advances to prevent losses. Here’s a roundup of ways the pandemic is affecting automotive industries.

Car sales

The distribution of vaccines is a step towards the right direction in the reduction of COVID-19 cases. However, with months to go before the vaccine is distributed on a broader scale, people are beginning to wonder if investing in a car is the best idea rather than waiting for COVID-19 to be under control.

According to J. D. Power, new car sales in the US in April 2020 were off by 45% compared to 2019. Their research revealed that 445,000 new cars were sold in April. In a bid to increase sales, Carmakers rolled out aggressive financing and appealing lease incentives to help buyers who may be having certain challenges in making their car payments.

With restrictions in place to ensure social distancing, dealers faced limitations that determined when they could open their doors to customers. Car dealers put in measures to extend online sales and home delivery options.

Layoffs

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive industry has received a series of surprises. Prior to the pandemic, vehicle sales were rising. In 2020, auto sales were expected to be between 16 and 17 million units, but along with March came the COVID-19 pandemic. This brought normal daily activities to a pause.

Restrictions were imposed to reduce or control the spread of the virus. Due to these restrictions, people could not visit car dealerships to buy vehicles. The restrictions also impacted companies that operate in the automobile supply chain, ultimately affecting production.

Many workers were laid off because production and assembly plants had to be shut down in order to comply with the restrictions. Autoworkers were asked to apply for unemployment benefits, use paid sick leave benefits, and other unusual actions. BMW’s US production facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was closed in March 2020, and many workers had to be laid off.

Online shopping

In recent times, online shopping has gained a lot of popularity. With health experts advising people to practice social distancing, it has become a wise option to stay at home and make purchases online.

Automotive companies are investing in ways to increase their online sales. These are a few strategies car dealers are considering:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It is quite evident that more people are considering online shopping when it comes to making purchases. The majority of consumers start the car buying process through search engine options.

As a result, many automotive companies are waking up to the importance of having a strong presence online and using digital marketing strategies to attract leads. Strong search engine optimization strategies have helped car dealers connect to more customers, thereby increasing their sales.

Social media presence

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of Americans on social media had tripled from 970 million users to 3.18 billion users. It only makes sense that car dealers will turn to social media to connect with new car buyers.

Most automotive companies now have business pages on various social media platforms where they interact with potential customers in a bid to build relationships and eventually increase car sales. Although it might take a while before online shopping completely takes over the automotive industry, the possibilities are endless.

Car sharing

Car sharing is gradually becoming common, especially in the US. For drivers and passengers alike, car sharing has become very efficient. Particular car models, especially models that are perfect for car-sharing, are in high demand. In a bid to avoid being in crowded places, people resort to car sharing as it helps people keep their distance while staying on the move. Car sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have benefited greatly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apart from being stress-free, car-sharing is an excellent way to save time. For people already working, it is a way to earn extra money. Car-sharing companies keep upgrading their services to give passengers a safe and secure experience.

Uber, for example, has come up with ride-sharing where a passenger can share his or her location with friends and family, giving them the opportunity to keep track of the trip. This will go a long way in preventing people from committing crimes such as theft and kidnapping.

Story by Jason Simons


augusta free press
augusta free press