Car Buyers Visit Dealerships Less, Want Online Sales, Autonomous Features & Ride Hailing

The way consumers are researching and buying cars is chaning greatly.More consumers taking the car dealership out of the buying process, visiting the dealer less frequently than before and wanting to buy their cars online. More than a third of car buyers (34 percent) now see ride sharing/hailing services as a genuine alternative to car ownership, according to a new study by Capgemini. The study contains good and bad news for automakers and tech companies. Consumers are using mutiple sources for new car research and relying on dealers much less.

While sales of new cars are continuing to grow, data supports the strategy of leading manufacturers who are already investing in car-sharing services through launches, acquisitions or partnerships, to adjust to the shifting attitudes of consumers.

When looking for a car, today’s consumers want real information. And they’re getting it from industry experts, independent critics, and large networks of connected groups with common interests. The study suggests that automakers and dealers have to stay in the loop by using their websites and social media sites to share the right information, to respond quickly and accurately to questions, and to reach out to interested (or even just curious) consumers.

The Cars Online 17 report from Capgemini, also contains good news for the traditional automotive sales model in the face of explosive growth in car sharing and tap-and-ride services. More than half of respondents see car-hailing and ride-sharing services such as Uber, Didi and BlaBlaCar as complementary to buying a new car (56 percent).

Also, the percentage of those who see mobility services as complementary to buying a car increases when looking at younger car buyers aged 18-34 (64 percent) and those based in emerging markets China (77 percent) and India (63 percent). The significance of the investments by major manufacturers in car-sharing schemes is confirmed by the fact that two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) state that car brands are an important factor in their choice of car-sharing programs, indicating that these schemes could become an important part of the new car-sales cycle.

The appetite for online sales continues to grow. Overall, 42% of consumers say they are “likely” or “very likely” to buy a car online in the future (compared to 35% in 2015). The interest is especially high in emerging markets, with 58% saying
the same, compared to 31% in mature markets. In the past, online sales were significantly higher for premium cars, since these OEMs were the first to pilot the new channel. This year, volume brands are in the mix, and customers are welcoming this expansion of online choices. Consumers who buy online want more control during the window between purchase and delivery: First, they expect frequent communications (about everything from updates to new offers). Among survey respondents from emerging markets, 91% say they would expect regular updates or constantly available information about their order; in mature markets, 74% say the same.
Autonomous-driving features remain a significant selling point for consumers. With assisted-driving functionality becoming standard on mainstream car models and regular reports of new autonomous-vehicle tests, 81 percent of respondents are willing to pay additional costs for autonomous-driving features.

Cybersecurity has now emerged as a key factor in car purchasing. In 2015, a third of respondents were concerned about cyber security. After further high-profile hacks of automotive platforms, consumers want re-assurance from manufacturers that cars are secure, with over two-thirds of car buyers (68 percent) stating that the “cyber resilience” of a car would influence whether they bought it or not.

Consumer interest in buying cars from tech brands is increasing despite lack of substance. A further 18 months of rumors that Google or Apple will launch cars has seen consumer interest increase from the 2015 study (49 percent), to well over half of consumers (57 percent) who are now open to buying a vehicle from a technology company such as Apple or Google.

Consumer trust of autonomous vehicles is split between established and new players. Given that the tech companies have led many of the public-testing exercises for autonomous vehicles, it’s significant that half of consumers (51 percent) would have more trust in car manufacturers producing a car with autonomous capabilities over a technology-firm produced car.

Data privacy concerns are reducing as consumers embrace the connected-device model. Familiarity with other connected devices and the tradeoff between data sharing and greater personalization and better services is changing consumer attitudes to connected cars. The majority of consumers would be willing to share their vehicle data (89 percent) and driver data (76 percent) while the car is connected. For comparison, in the 2015 study, 80 percent of respondents said they would share data freely or with certain restrictions, emphasizing the continuing willingness of consumers to share data.Demand for digital showrooms is challenging the traditional sales model. No doubt influenced by the continued consumer interest in disruptive technologies and virtual showroom launches from a number of major manufacturers, consumers are demanding alternative methods of finding information through OEMs and dealers, such as virtual reality vehicle presentations (62 percent), live chats (43 percent) and video blogs from customers (36 percent).

Nearly half of today’s consumers say they would consider buying a car online. And why not, since that satisfies their desire for control and convenience? The upside is that online buyers are open to cross-selling and up-selling. Yet, most still visit a dealer to “see the car in real life”; when there, they expect help in understanding the car’s technology (such as driving assistance features), making car-to-car comparisons, and exploring different configurations.