Overall shopper volume down 25% in first 15 days of March.
As the world continues to confront the Coronavirus pandemic, the auto industry is preparing for a disruption in its business, with manufacturers already announcing plant shutdowns. Against that backdrop, new research from Comscore (NASDAQ: SCOR) reveals that annual sales projections for 2020 have gone from 16.8 million vehicles just last month to 14-16 million vehicles in reaction to the ongoing health crisis.
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 KBB, CarGurus and Edmunds.
Data through February 2020 suggested the industry hadn’t seen much of an impact. Sales remained strong, up 8 percent year-over-year with a 16.8 million SAAR while in-market shopper data followed trends consistent with prior years. Overall, shoppers were down just 1 percent from the year prior and trailed January 2020 which is typical for Q1. However, March 2020 is shaping up to be a much different story.
Overall shopper volume for the first 15 days of March 2020 was off 25 percent compared to the same period in 2019, with declines across most segments. 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 6 years, a clear indicator that March 2020 sales – and beyond – are in for some turbulence ahead,” said Dennis Bulgarelli, Vice President, Automotive, Comscore. “As the pandemic grows and consumers shelter in place, expect the decline to spread across the board.”
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 6 months for customers who recently purchased a vehicle and who lost their job due to Covid-19. And Ford just announced their “Built to Lend a Hand” program which also provides payment relief.
“New vehicle shopping is a leading indicator of new vehicle sales. If auto demand slows, manufacturers will have to get creative with their media plans in order to maintain consumer interest,” said Bulgarelli.