Mar 27, 2020 - Economy & Business

Car sales move online — maybe forever

Illustration of a car with money symbols fogging up the windshield

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Car dealers are doing everything they can — including making house calls to deliver cars remotely — in hopes of preventing a total collapse of vehicle sales.

Why it matters: Few consumers have been willing to buy cars online the way they buy shoes. But among the many lifestyle changes we might see when this pandemic finally ends could be a desire to conduct more business remotely — including car shopping.

What's happening: With millions of Americans stuck at home, big dealership chains like AutoNation and Sonic Automotive are pushing their online-retailing services harder, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • They're even sending salespeople to customers' homes — if allowed by social-distancing regulations — and making it easier to complete the purchase over the internet.
  • Some dealerships are also offering to pick up and drop off customers' cars for repairs or maintenance to try to keep their service departments busy and prevent layoffs.
  • The National Automobile Dealers Association has argued that dealerships and repair shops should be considered "essential services."

The bottom line, writes the Journal: "This may be the iPhone moment of transitioning to a more digital retail environment," said Tyson Jominy, auto analyst for J.D. Power.

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