Vehicle buyers cling to familiarity amid pandemic, study finds


Consumers craved familiarity and affordability when making vehicle purchase decisions during the pandemic, a new Deloitte study found.

The 2021 Global Automotive Consumer Study, released early Monday, found that 74 percent of U.S. consumers are looking for an internal combustion engine in their next vehicle.

According to a Deloitte press release, the study found that the pandemic led consumers to revert to familiar purchases: 84 percent of U.S. consumers plan to purchase a traditional vehicle in the future rather than make the switch to electric vehicles.

Last year’s study found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed wanted gasoline or diesel vehicles. This year, that figure increased to 74 percent, showing that EV appeal declined in the minds of consumers.

U.S. consumers considering alternative engine solutions for their next vehicle fell 15 percentage points year over year to 26 percent.

Masa Hasegawa, principal for Deloitte Consulting’s strategy and operations practice, told Automotive News that the decline in interest of EVs was caused by anxiety induced by the pandemic.

Beyond pandemic influences, people are hesitant to purchase EVs because of concerns over battery range, lack of charging infrastructure and fear of hacking with increased connectivity.

Hasegawa said there are two factors that could increase the demand for electric vehicles in 2021: stricter emissions regulations and affordable EV options from manufacturers.

The study said that 2020 brought about financial struggles that made consumers hesitant to invest in EVs. If manufacturers focus on offering more EV options at several price points, people will be more inclined to make the switch, Hasegawa said.

The pandemic impacted the automotive finance industry through the increase in vehicle payment deferments. The study found that consumers age 18 to 34 were more than two times more likely to defer their payments.

Ryan Robinson, automotive research leader for Deloitte, said he is concerned about the future demand curve based on the deferment figures. He was also surprised to find that 71 percent of consumers prefer to purchase their vehicles in store rather than online.

He said the experience of test driving a car and “kicking the tires” is a critical part of the sale for many who were surveyed.

Although a majority of those surveyed want to experience the purchase process in person, people in the U.S., Korea and Japan are “largely in favor” of the convenience of virtual servicing options, according to the study.

The pandemic led consumers to rethink making the switch to EVs and confirmed the desire to make vehicle purchases face-to-face, Robinson said.

Deloitte surveyed 24,000 consumers from 23 countries on issues impacting the automotive sector, including how the pandemic influenced consumer perceptions, development of advanced technologies and the impact of digital automotive retail platforms.




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