The pandemic has severely affected the automotive industry

While most manufacturing and industry sectors have been affected by the current crisis, automotive businesses with retail operations that are heavily reliant on physical point of sale have been hit particularly hard. Social distancing measures across the world have stopped customers from visiting dealerships, catching an industry entirely dependent on face-to-face customer interaction unawares.


Sales are plummeting. In the first quarter of 2020, Mercedes-Benz AG’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) shrunk by more than 75%, PSA Groupe sold 29% less vehicles and Volkswagen reported a sales drop of 25%. This is the worst possible time for this to happen to carmakers. All are bearing costs associated with the pivot towards alternatively fueled vehicles. VW is still affected by the financial fallout related to emissions testing. And Daimler is reducing costs and personnel in order to financially stabilise and successfully restructure in light of current market trends.

It’s crucial that carmakers quickly adapt

Negative effects are being felt by the wealthiest OEMs, underscoring the level of threat facing the entire automotive industry and the level of importance that needs to be placed on adaptation. Besides securing supply of goods for manufacturing, the answer is to reach customers by completely overhauling sales channels.

These have laid static for decades, but it’s crucial that businesses act now. The length of the crisis is uncertain – a second wave of infection or other, unforeseen risks may materialise. Inaction thus carries the potential of long-term financial damage.

Yet this situation is, at its heart, a significant opportunity. It’s a chance to spread the productivity, efficiency and collaboration gains of digitization further through your business to your sales operations; improve IT structures, processes and competency; and update your sales relationships –doing so at a time when action is much less likely to disturb daily business.

How to master the crisis and transform your automotive sales

There are several key steps you can take to digitize your sales structures, bring them online, and connect with your customers, all while providing the same high-quality service that automotive sales rely on.

  • Quickly create or mature your online sales journey – through information-gathering, to purchase, fulfilment, then usage – adapting your product offering and processes in a customer-centric way that allows rapid success. Produce a seamlessly designed, end-to-end sales process that allows your customers to progress through the entire customer journey online, without the need to switch channels.
  • Ensure that your online purchase processes mirror your current offline purchase processes as closely as possible, thus providing a similarly positive and empowering customer experience.
  • Replicate your brand through the use of innovative touchpoints such as virtual and augmented reality to provide immersive, emotional experiences that transport the customer into the driving seat.

Disruptive carmakers are already acting – providing valuable, best-practice insight

Already, focused, rapid, MVP-style approaches are being deployed across the automotive industry to build robust and effective online sales processes – in some cases, in a space of just eight weeks. The winners will be those that act fastest to provide customers with the sales experience they need. If you have yet to act, these business’ approaches offer useful lessons that can help hone your own, tailored approach.

Chinese car manufacturer Geely, for example, has created an online sales channel that allows customers to complete the entire purchase process online – including financing and home delivery of the car. To reduce face-to-face contact as much as possible, the car keys can even be delivered by drone.

This approach is being mirrored by Tesla, already a trailblazer in online automotive sales, whose new delivery methods are designed to further reduce human contact. These include Express Delivery, which delivers the car to an agreed Tesla location for collection, with customers opening the vehicle using the Tesla app; Tesla Direct Drop, where cars are delivered to a location of the customer’s choosing; and a virtual introduction to car functionality that is delivered via the vehicle’s cabin touchscreen console.

As the pandemic continues indefinitely, customers now require the ability to conduct sales entirely online. By acting now, you can provide engaging customer experiences and secure sales, all while digitally priming your business for future success.

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