It’s safe to say that most of us are happy to see 2021 in the rearview mirror. Despite worries that 2022 is starting off as “2020 too,” many of the interesting things that occurred last year from an automotive standpoint are leading to even more interesting changes in the next 12 months. The inventory shortage that saw dealer lots emptied of new cars is leading to more pre-ordering in 2022. Used-car demand hasn’t cooled, and the price gap between new and used continues to narrow. Online vehicle purchases are up and look like they’re set to gain even more popularity as dealers and buyers increasingly like the idea of speeding the buying process by doing it all electronically.
Related: Inventory Shortage Update: Should You Wait to Buy a Car?
So what else can we expect for the rest of the year? Cars.com surveyed consumers and dealers to see what trends are likely to have the most impact on car shopping in 2022.
Increasingly Online, From Start to Finish
It used to be that dealers were wary of online sales and anyone who came to the store armed with printouts and screengrabs of data and numbers. Not anymore — a significant number of dealers are now very much down with the idea of transacting everything online from start to finish, and consumers are increasingly warming to the idea as well. Cars.com research reflects that 38% of current car shoppers expect to complete the entire car-buying process online, with another 38% intending to do all the paperwork online but purchase their vehicle in person. Local car dealers agree, with 66% of dealers preferring shoppers complete the majority of the car-buying process online, especially the financing portion. This allows dealers more time to focus on their customers and answer questions, which leads to more satisfied shoppers and sellers, a win-win.
More Life Use, Less Lifestyle
One thing that was completely disrupted in 2021 and appears to continue in 2022 is where a number of Americans work — no longer in an office, but in the home. So it comes as no surprise that the way Americans use their cars has also undergone a massive change. Commuting is out, local errands and casual use are in, at least for the near future. Increasingly, people are using their vehicles for escapism as well — but not necessarily barreling off into the woods; many are just using them as quiet spaces in the driveway to relax and chill, something that’s driving automakers to add unusual features, like the calming multimedia apps seen in the new 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
The pandemic has evolved how people use their cars. Instead of running errands before or after work, 67% of remote workers use their new flexibility to cross off to-do-list tasks throughout the day.
Have It Your Way, Made-to-Order
Did you try to buy a car in 2021, only to arrive at a dealer lot to find the cupboard was bare? Supply shortages led to dramatically lower production of new cars last year, but that’s pushed automakers and dealers to change how they sell them — specifically, they’d increasingly like you to order one instead buy one off a lot full of choices.
The lack of inventory and dominance of e-commerce is changing how people shop for cars. In fact, 16% of recently surveyed car buyers preordered their vehicle from a dealership last year, and 98% of those buyers said they enjoyed the experience and would preorder again. On top of that, 41% of shoppers plan to preorder their next vehicle through a local dealer. Preordering allows customers to get all the features and trim levels they want without going through an arduous search process. With the price gap between new and used cars narrowing, consumers realize that for the same price of a used car, they may be able to get a custom new vehicle if they are willing to wait.
Demand Stays Strong, Despite Rising Prices
A supply shortage may have seen inventory hampered over the past two years, but sales have remained strong throughout the pandemic. Prices have gone up by double digits as well, but 60% of surveyed consumers stated that these factors haven’t changed their plans to buy a vehicle. Pent-up demand from the consumers that did decide to delay purchases is likely to continue to drive strong sales through the new year as well.
Wouldn’t You Rather Have an EV?
Sales of electric vehicles were still a fraction of the grand total of vehicles sold in 2021, but interest is growing in the rapidly expanding segment as automaker after automaker state they are abandoning internal combustion engine technology for battery-powered models. The Biden administration’s plans to invest in nationwide EV infrastructure and proposed purchase incentives have also changed consumer interest, with 66% of surveyed consumers now saying they are more likely to buy an EV due to those factors. Cars.com’s search data is starting to show it, too, but on a more localized market-by-market basis. Searches for EVs have almost doubled on Cars.com, with the San Francisco; Los Angeles; Seattle; Sacramento, Calif.; and Denver areas specifically leading the way.
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