Press release
04 Jan 2024  | London, GB

One in four are buying cars online but dealerships will remain vital for move to EVs – EY Mobility Consumer Index

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  • A quarter of buyers (25%) look to purchase cars online, up from 18% in 2021
  • Preference for buying in dealership also increased to 61% up from 54% in 2021
  • Dealership will remain important for convincing “EV skeptics”

Car buyers are more likely than ever to complete their purchase online with 25% of respondents looking to buy through manufacturer or third-party websites. At the same time, preference for completing a purchase in a dealership rose to 61% while the remaining respondents are undecided.  

According to retail insights from the latest EY Mobility Consumer Index (MCI), which surveyed 15,000 consumers across 20 countries, online tools for pre-sale and vehicle research continue to become more popular with 87% of respondents saying they use online tools for information gathering about their potential purchase. The dealership, however, remains an important part of the process, with 66% saying they want to physically experience the car at a dealership and 61% saying they want to complete the purchase there, a number that has risen steadily from 54% in 2021.  

Randy Miller, EY Global Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Leader, says:

“We’ve known for a while that the way people buy cars is changing and the surge in preference for buying online in the last two years confirms that. However, for all the digitalization of car buying process that has taken place, the role of a dealership remains important for the majority of consumers. People are still looking for the human interaction and to see the vehicle in person as part of the purchase process. They want to kick the tires, they want to experience the vehicle they’re going to buy and they want to look someone in the eye when they shake their hand and pick up the keys.

“There has been a lot of talk about the death of the dealership, but reports of their demise seem to be quite premature. In fact, what we’re looking at it is a move to a hybrid approach. Buyers want to use online tools to help narrow down their search and understand the buying landscape, but when it comes to experiencing the vehicle, sorting out paperwork and the final sale, dealerships remain the favored option.”

Convincing the EV skeptics

The data also shows that dealerships are essential in the move toward electric vehicles (EVs), as those profiled as “EV skeptics” are committed users of dealerships, even for the pre-sale element of the purchase, with 67% of respondents saying they would conduct research through a salesperson at a dealership (overall average of 50%) and 75% saying they want to experience the vehicle in-person before buying it (overall average 66%).

Miller says: “For some buyers, moving from a traditional gas engine to an electric vehicle is a big leap. We know from our data that there are a number of reasons for this; from concerns about range, to charging issues to cost. Therefore, education is vital to help assuage these concerns and given most of the EV skeptics prefer to use dealerships, that is where this education is going to need to happen most. Direct interactions at dealerships will allow salespeople to tailor their approach to the individual concerns and preferences of each skeptic. If manufacturers want to capture this market and move them into buying EVs, the dealership is going to remain an essential part of the buying journey from start to finish.”

-ends-

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About the EY Global Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Sector

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.

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