Finally, dealers may not need all that real estate to park hundreds of cars if online sales of EVs are built to order. That means dealers may need to repurpose that space.
"Dealerships are not going away," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. "Dealers flex a lot of political muscle and they have strong franchise laws protecting them. There may be less, as consolidation occurs (Lithia buying Suburban collection, for instance) and they definitely will change."
The consumer battleground
General Motors intends to sell all zero-emissions light-duty vehicles by 2035. Company leaders are working with dealers now on changes to the way their customers will buy cars and be serviced in the future.
But GM executives and dealers are tight-lipped on dealership transformations.
Volvo may serve as an example. Earlier this month, the carmaker said it would radically change its marketing and retail operations by moving all its vehicle sales online and going all-electric by 2030. Published reports said Volvo dealers will mainly offer test drives, service and repairs with just about everything else around the vehicle purchase moving online.
Studies show many customers prefer to spend less time in dealerships if they can help it. For years, many consumers have bemoaned the painful process of a stereotypical aggressive and shady salesperson, haggling over prices, then holding the consumer near-hostage for hours during the negotiation.
Last year, Cox Automotive’s Re-imagining the Consumer Experience study found that dealership changes implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic — such as no-touch service, vehicle pickup and delivery, and online sales — widely pleased consumers.
"Even before the pandemic, we expected the auto retail experience to change dramatically over the next five years," Krebs said. "Consumer experience is the battleground of this decade."
'Slick and efficient'