The closure of car dealerships due to the coronavirus pandemic forced automakers to become more creative in how they sell their wares, and there are indications that this trend could endure beyond the disease.
Tesla has sold cars directly to consumers via its website for several years, and many of its rivals have accelerated similar efforts in recent months. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are bound by U.S. franchise laws to sell through dealers, but they have introduced click-and-collect options, enhanced online showrooms and other measures to allow customers to complete more of the buying experience from behind their screens. In the U.K., Peugeot, Volvo Cars and others offer fully online sales with delivery of new, customized vehicles to customers' doorsteps.
Franchise laws will ensure that there will remain a need for dealerships, but all major carmakers are evolving their purchase options for the next generation of buyers. Alexei Andreev, managing director at venture capital firm Autotech Ventures, notes that younger customers are more likely to avoid visiting showrooms until they are ready for a final test drive.
If the June 9 IPO of used-vehicle online retailer Vroom is anything to go by, a growing online-element of car sales is expected to continue — the New-York-based company's stock has more than doubled since it debuted.
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