COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown of the country left the US automotive industry fighting for survival. Not only has the pandemic forced manufacturers to close just about every auto plant in the country, but previously prospering dealerships also had to shut their doors amidst the stern regulations. Now, after more than six weeks in lockdown, a growing number of states are working to reopen the economy and return to some form of normalcy. On 11 May 2020, Reuters reported how factory workers have begun to return to automotive assembly lines in Michigan and elsewhere in the country to prepare for a recommencement of automobile production during the next week. In many other parts of the USA, car dealerships have also begun to re-evaluate their business models in order to better adapt to what has widely become known as ‘the new normal’.
More workers return to work as e-commerce blossoms
The nationwide shutdowns, combined with a raging oil price war, resulted in the automotive industry sales decreasing by 41% in March 2020 compared to the year before. While skilled trades workers also started to return to auto assembly plants to prepare for the restart, car dealerships are embracing e-commerce unlike ever before in a bid to negate the losses experienced in the previous three months. The current upsurge in industry-related e-commerce facilities could see as many as 90% of new car dealers boasting fully-fledged internet commerce capacities by the end of 2020.
Plant workers issued with face masks while dealership visits decline
Joe Perkins, the chief executive of Busche Performance Group stated in an interview that they were starting up their foundry in anticipation of the orders that are bound to start coming in towards the end of May. He reiterated that all workers will be issued with face masks and that temperature checks will happen at regular intervals. Meanwhile, thanks to more dealerships developing an online presence, customers will ultimately spend increasingly more time making purchasing decisions from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you are in the market for a new family SUV or you’re looking for a second-hand sedan for your teen, nearly all of your searching can happen online. The only time you would have to go into the dealership in person is to sign the final papers and perhaps take the car for a test drive.
There may be no returning to the ‘old normal’
While lockdown is systematically phased out and the automobile industry may seem ready to resume operations, the death toll in the USA keeps climbing. This makes it exceptionally difficult for both manufacturers and car dealers nationwide to return to some sort of normal without appearing callous and careless. According to forecasters, the global automotive industry may start to recover later this year and possibly regain its peak by 2023. There is, however, also a definite possibility that things will never fully return to the ‘old normal’. Should this be the case, manufacturers, dealerships and customers alike will all have to find ways to keep the market alive for the greater benefit of the economy.
Although COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across most industries, automotive manufacturers and dealers may soon enjoy a slight reprieve. There is, however, no guarantee that the once-flourishing industry will fully return to its former self.