The coronavirus outbreak that mandated significant alterations to businesses across all industries, as well as our daily routines, has left an evident dent on the automobile industry. As the industry digitalises in order to keep up and have business operating ‘as usual’, could the post-pandemic spell the end to our traditional motor shows?
As the coronavirus evolves globally, coupled with safety regulations rolled out by governments, many of our anticipated major motor shows have been cancelled – Geneva International Motor Show, New York International Auto Show, Beijing Auto Show and the likes of many other automotive motor shows following behind like falling dominoes. Though organisers of these shows claim that they would return with a change in date or treat 2020 as a fallow year, many manufacturers could have other plans in mind and are reassessing their finances in the wake of Covid-19.
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The growing consumer demand online has fuelled many dealers and automakers to invest millions into digital sales tools. Personalised services catering to consumers’ needs have also grown in the face of competition. As transactions are increasingly and conveniently done online, the same is expected for the auto retail scene.
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With car buyers swiping and transacting online, at any time of the day at their fingertips, this means that consumers are able to choose the amount of time to invest in the process, be it browsing, appraising a trade-in, scheduling test drives or deliveries. Less waiting time and more flexibility would also be presumed of dealers, such as delivery or scheduled pickup of vehicles.
Although greatly affected by the cancelled motor shows, many automotive dealers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have live-steamed and revealed new models on their own platforms. Many others have also introduced online sales to entice buyers in this trying period. Video calling and webinars have similarly became a ‘new normal’ as carmakers aim to keep up with the game. Moving forward, this does not mean that showrooms are no longer needed – It will just be different.
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The coronavirus outbreak appears to have accelerated the industry’s move towards the digital space, as they were initially slow and reluctant to adopt online sales for fear of affecting their offline operations. To secure the growing demands and habits of consumers with the convenience of online auto retail, dealers will indefinitely have to pour in sufficient resources to ensure the provision of fully-functional online services and positive user experiences.
The changing automotive landscape could further result in the usual static-vehicle motor show as less appealing for both consumers and dealers, as the option to view them online is made available without having to fork out for a ticket. Social distancing is without a doubt, quite impossible when it comes to mass gathering in the case of thousands of attendees at a motor show. Even if the shows return in any time in the near-future, participation by carmakers may be questionable given the need for a financial recovery, as attending a motor show incurs substantial costs.
What the future of traditional motor shows holds remains rather ambivalent at this current juncture.