Car sales bounce back after drastic pandemic drop
VANCOUVER -- The auto industry is considered an essential service, but car dealers had a hard time keeping their doors open when the pandemic struck, and had to adapt quickly.
Now, as British Columbia gradually reopens, business is picking up for car dealers. But there have been many changes in how business is being done, and you can now buy a vehicle without even leaving your home.
Bob and Sherrie Warren are helping their daughter buy a new car, and have been impressed with what they've seen at the dealership.
"The best thing, actually, was when we walked in the door and no one walked up to greet us," Sherrie says. "As much as it’s a place where people are trying to sell you something, they kept their distance."
Constant cleaning and notices posted on the door on how to stay safe are winning customers back after business fell off the cliff.
Bernard Le of Jim Pattison Subaru Northshore says the drop in sales was huge. Service centres helped keep dealers afloat as many saw sales fall up to 70 per cent in April.
"We're bouncing back to normal," Le says, adding online sales have grown exponentially. "New car sales are starting to pick up."
The Subaru dealer says customers can do everything online, even book test drives.
"We bring the vehicles to them to test drive at home," Le says. "Anything under $20,000 has been selling well."
Blair Qualey with the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. says other dealers are doing the same thing.
"A lot of them will give you a test drive vehicle for 24 hours, make sure it's dropped off at your house fully sanitized," he says. "They'll come and pick it up when you're done. All the paperwork, everything can be done online."
Shawn Vording, the VP of automotive sales at CARFAX Canada, says there has particularly been change in one sector.
"The used car recovery has been significantly better than anyone expected," he says.
CARFAX has seen an increase in vehicle history reports, and Vording suspects that's because commuters are shying away from public transit, looking for cheaper used vehicles to get them to work.
At the Subaru dealership, Le says customers are coming in ready to go through with a sale.
"The majority of our appointments coming in – they're buying the cars right away."
Sherrie and Bob Warren are ready to do the same with their daughter when McLaughlin On Your Side talked to them Le's dealership.
"Today would be a good day to get a car," Sherrie said.
"Put it this way," Bob added. "She lives in Squamish. If we don't buy a car, we're driving her home."