The coronavirus pandemic has upended auto sales and buying a car will never be the


A salesman walks past used Toyota Motor vehicles at the Brent Brown Toyota dealership in Orem, Utah, on Monday, April 6, 2020.

George Frey | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pickup, delivery or curbside? It’s a question Americans have grown accustomed to answering for food delivery and groceries during the coronavirus pandemic. It also might be something they’re asked when purchasing their next vehicle.

The Covid-19 crisis has upended auto sales, and many don’t think they will ever be the same again. Dealers and automakers are changing business strategies and investing millions in new digital sales tools as consumers demand more online and personalized services.

“For digital, this whole disruptive period with corona is an inflection point from which there’s no turning back,” Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation, the country’s largest auto retailer, recently told investors.

What that means for consumers is being able to choose how much or how little of the process they want to conduct online. That includes scheduling a test drive or delivery of a vehicle to appraising a trade-in and getting prequalified for financing.

More importantly, it should result in less, if any, time waiting at dealerships and flexible options such as having the vehicle picked up or delivered – something Tesla Motors and other newer auto retailers such as Carvana have been doing for years. It’s a more flexible purchasing process that doesn’t have to be conducted during traditional business hours.

The coronavirus pandemic, according to Jackson, has been an accelerant to online sales for the industry, which has been reluctant to adopt such processes due to fear of disrupting their profitable showrooms operations.

Profits remain

AutoNation, according to Jackson, has not experienced any declines in profitability from sales conducted online versus those in a traditional showroom.

That doesn’t mean showrooms won’t be needed going forward. It’ll just be different, including new sanitization processes…



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