- Thirty-seven percent Gen Z would prefer to buy a car online
- Sixty-six percent of all age groups use online tools to research purchase
- Dealership still important to most car buyers but demographic shift underway
The future of the automotive dealership is going to need a digital redesign as successive generations move increasingly online when it comes to vehicle purchases.
According to retail insights from the latest EY Mobility Consumer Index (MCI), which surveyed 13,000 car buyers across 18 countries, 37% of Gen Z respondents would prefer to buy their vehicle online. Just 13% of baby boomers say the same, and the percentage rises for each successive generation, with 20% for Gen X and 28% for millennials.
The MCI also shows that online tools for researching a vehicle purchase are now an essential and growing part of the purchasing process, with 66% of all car buyers using them to gather information about their purchase (65% of Gen Z, 69% of millennials, 66% of Gen X, and 60% of baby boomers).
Martin Cardell, EY Global Mobility Solutions Leader, says:
“We’re heading into an era that demands a major rethink of what the role of the dealership will look like. With each successive generation, people are becoming more comfortable buying and researching their vehicle purchases online. Dealerships are going to have to adapt to this new reality and their role is going to have to change. Most people still want to experience the car physically, but for how much longer? When it comes to booking test drives, comparing costs and specifications, the majority of car buyers are already happy to do so online.”
While the data does still show that more than half of buyers (57%) intend to buy their next car from a dealer, consumers are increasingly open to using quick and convenient digital tools for at least some of the purchasing process. Sixty-three percent of electric vehicle (EV) buyers say they would be interested in booking a test drive and working out the price of a new car (61%) online, for example, while 52% would use an online configurator to explore the specifications of a car.
Cardell says: “Even where so-called ‘digital natives’ are concerned, it’s not a case of either physical or digital, but both. Younger buyers are more inclined to prefer a digitally enhanced experience, but still seek the reassurance of physical and in-person interactions. We are already seeing automakers either moving away from large physical stores or transforming them into experience centers to enhance the customer purchase experience. Dealers and original equipment manufacturers have already become accustomed to a world where getting a sale is no longer just about having the best product, the smartest salespeople and the most competitive deal. Now they will also have to evolve beyond competing based on who has best online or virtual experience, to who can offer the best customer lifetime experience.”
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Urbanization, changing consumer expectations and emerging digital technologies are reshaping what’s possible, from the production and distribution of goods to the transportation of people. To succeed in this new world of mobility and smart manufacturing, incumbents must transform themselves at unprecedented speed — to think like an innovative startup, tap into new talent and engage the customer. With experience across the value chain and key technology alliances, our teams show clients how to create efficiencies now while adopting digitization and optionality for long-term growth. Automotive, transportation, aerospace, defense, chemicals and industrial products companies can draw on the strength of our network of cross-industry players and put our diverse range of approaches to use today to equip their businesses for tomorrow.