Auto Shopping Falls To Lowest Level In 6 Years

Overall shopper volume at car dealerships for the first 15 days of March 2020 was off 25% compared to the same period in 2019, with declines across most segments, according to Comscore.

The number of full-size pickup shoppers, however, remained ahead of last year’s pace, likely buoyed by incentives and personal use needs.

For the first half of March 2020, which includes the beginning of self-quarantines and social distancing, in-market shopper volume fell to its lowest level in more than six years, a clear indicator that March 2020 sales -- and beyond -- are in for some turbulence ahead, says Dennis Bulgarelli, vice president, automotive, Comscore.

Annual sales projections for 2020 have decreased, from 16.8 million vehicles just last month to 14 million to 16 million vehicles in reaction to the ongoing health crisis, per Comscore.



“New vehicle shopping is a leading indicator of new vehicle sales,” Bulgarelli says in a release. “If auto demand slows, manufacturers will have to get creative with their media plans in order to maintain consumer interest.”

Already manufacturers are thinking of ways to keep consumers engaged. GM has introduced 0% financing for 84 months. Hyundai has brought back the Hyundai Assurance program, which covers payments for up to six months for customers who recently purchased a vehicle and who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Ford announced its “Built to Lend a Hand” program, which also provides payment relief.

Comscore’s in-market shopper data is an early indicator of industry health and provides insight into what’s on the horizon for the auto industry. This data is measured via engagement with lower-funnel shopping KPIs across 40+ 3rd party automotive shopping sites, such as KBB, CarGurus and Edmunds.

Data through February 2020 suggested the industry hadn’t seen much of an impact yet from the health crisis. Sales remained strong, up 8% year-over-year, with a 16.8 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, while in-market shopper data followed trends consistent with prior years. Overall, the number of shoppers decreased just 1% from the year prior and trailed January 2020, which is typical for first-quarter numbers.

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