Even though the automotive sector is just a form of largescale business, the process of buying a car is often a special experience. Depending on the dealership and customer’s preference, the occasion is made extra memorable. One need not be an automotive enthusiast to have this belief, but bringing a brand-new (or pre-owned) car home is often analogous to receiving an extra member in the family.
An automobile is not something you just buy off the shelf (hypothetically). Instead, there are different phases in making the right decision — starting with fixing a budget, online or offline research, showroom visit, test drive, rough comparison with another alternative or competitor, getting valuable (or oftentimes baseless) inputs from close friends or relatives; and finally, booking the car of choice. However, experts state that the current state of affairs might bring a major change to this.
COVID-19 or coronavirus has spread its effects beyond health and brought down many businesses to a near standstill. Out of this, the global automotive industry faced some of the worst with sales dropping by almost 80% from the days before the outbreak. In India, certain automakers have resumed operations with limited resources while some others have actively shifted their focus to making essential medical equipment for the fight against the pandemic. Here is how the process of buying a new car would change after COVID-19 in India:
Once the Indian government relaxes its nationwide lockdown measures, one might not be able to do casual showroom visits. Instead, we would have to make appointments and follow strict timing. Tata Motors has released a set of guidelines to its dealer partners directing staff to take all the necessary steps to maintain social distancing. Important paperwork (registration, insurance, etc.) should either be emailed or dropped off in a dedicated box at the showroom.
OEMs are also planning to issue thermal guns to their dealerships. Each day, visitors and staff alike would be temperature-screened before entering the showroom or conducting a test drive. Furthermore, masks would be mandatory for every individual on the premises. Cleaning staff would be trained to maintain proper sanitisation and hygiene throughout the dealership with minimal inconvenience to visitors.
At the lobby, newspapers, magazines, brochures or any other forms of physical information media would be removed. If possible, digital interactive platforms would be introduced (following periodic sanitisation processes such as touchscreen cleaning).
Had test drives not been an integral part of buying a vehicle, it could have been cancelled altogether. However, dealership staff may stop recommending test drives like before and offer it only if the potential customer insists. During a test drive, only two individuals would be allowed in the car (customer as the driver and staff member diagonally opposite at the back).
Test vehicles would be sanitised before and after every drive and protective covers would be used in almost every point of contact (door handles, steering wheel, gear lever, seats, etc.). Needless to say, one might not be able to enjoy a full-on test drive but an opportunity to understand the basics. Certain dealerships might also offer test drives from the customer’s residence as an extra step to maintain social distancing.
As mentioned in the beginning, buying a new vehicle is generally a joyous occasion. Showroom staff are mostly open to conducting basic ceremonies (including religious) before delivering a car. Customers are also given the freedom to fix the delivery date, provided it’s a working day. Some limit the celebration to just cutting a cake and taking a photograph while a growing trend involves hiring a video crew to document the entire process. Sadly, post-COVID days might not allow such events.
Not more than two individuals would be recommended to come for delivery. Prior to this, only the customer would be asked to visit the showroom (taking all the precautions mentioned before) to complete important paperwork. Deliveries would be more direct in order to complete in the shortest time possible, with no ‘unveiling ceremony’. Dealerships would also insist on making deliveries at the customers’ residence or any other convenient or safe location
Usually, dealerships conduct a major event to celebrate multiple deliveries if the vehicle is fresh on the market and it’s the first day of sale. Expect no such ‘mass deliveries’ for quite some time.
With showrooms remaining closed until further notice, automakers are concentrating on online platforms to make sales. Over the past few weeks, several brands have introduced ‘online showrooms’ with limited-time offers to encourage potential buyers to make the shift. In the global scenario, automakers have started hosting important events of the calendar on digital media as well.
The world is going currently through a lot of uncertainty. To make the best out of the worst, industries have laid down new socially-distanced business strategies to maintain profits. Coming to the automotive industry, we are in the opinion that if there is no immediate requirement for a new vehicle, it’s best to wait until the current situation settles down.