MAX Consumer Insights:
Covid-19 Impact on Consumers

November 2020


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Executive Summary

We surveyed over 4000 people between the ages of 25 and 55 to understand how interest in purchasing a vehicle for this core automotive buying audience has changed due to the coronavirus outbreak. While there are some significant shifts particularly in terms of delay, the dealership-based purchase process is extremely robust and more trusted than alternate channels to complete a purchase during this crisis.


Purchasing Patterns Have Changed
Less Than Expected in Key Areas


There has been no meaningful shift from new car shopping to used car shopping. Ninety-six percent of people in the market prior to the coronavirus outbreak are still in market.

The only notable shift was a small increase in the “Not sure” category. For the purpose of this study, the remainder of the analysis on the purchase process is limited to intended purchasers of new vehicles and used vehicles from 1-5 years old.

Motivation: Health & Safety, Incentives Rise, Top Reasons to Buy Remain Unchanged

Shoppers have become less focused on upgrading and more focused on incentives and deals. Motivation based on “health and safety reasons” increased by 43 percent. The biggest motivators for purchasing a car remains upgrading, commuting and lifestyle.


Delay is the largest change


The biggest impact of the crisis is to cause shoppers to slow down the timing of their planned car purchase. A full sixty-six percent of people indicated they would delay purchase, most by three to six months.

While the overall percentage of people intending to buy sooner is small, people within this category indicated lifestyle change as their primary motivation. Twenty-seven percent of respondents in that segment chose lifestyle change versus fifteen percent in the broader purchasing group.

Purchase at Dealerships is Dominant

Online buying interest is rising, but is still a very small segment of buyers. Eighty-six percent of new car shoppers and eighty-seven percent of used car shoppers plan to visit a dealership to check out and/or test drive the car before buying instead of purchasing online without visiting the dealership. People who intended to buy used vehicles were more likely to contact someone at the dealership to get more information about the vehicle prior to coming into the dealership.


Most People Visiting Dealerships Are Comfortable


Despite COVID-19 fears, eighty-seven percent of consumers are comfortable buying through the traditional in store process, provided that enhanced safety precautions are taken. Across this group, over ninety percent remain in the dealership through taking delivery of the vehicle.

Local Car Dealerships Are More Trusted on Coronavirus Safety

Local car dealerships inspired more confidence than either an online vendor like Carvana or a national chain like CarMax, with sixty-three percent of people indicating they were very confident or confident in a local car dealership’s social distancing and coronavirus safety procedures, compared to forty-six percent for those other purchase channels.


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