Krebs said most consumers indicated they want a salesperson who is less transactional and more of a product specialist.
"Consumers still want to see the vehicles in-person and they see brand centers as providing a low-pressure environment for a high-touch research experience," Krebs said. "Seventy percent of consumers found this appealing and half would even switch to a competitor brand who offers this concept."
Consider Tesla. The electric carmaker does not have dealerships, only stores. There is one at Somerset Collection in Troy. It's where Matt Cooper of DeWitt, Mich., shopped with a friend in 2019 for his 2020 Model 3 car.
"They took my information and we took a Model 3 for a test drive," Cooper said. "There are three or four cars in the showroom and you give them your info and they had a few you could test drive."
He went online and put together the package he wanted for his car and made the purchase.
"It’s really slick and efficient and it’s nice not to go through a salesperson," Cooper said. "If they have the car you want, you put a down payment on it and then, as we got closer, you give them the full payment. You can then take delivery of it or they deliver it to your house."
That process might not work for some consumers who need help securing financing.
Besides low-pressure online sales, many consumers said they want a better and longer test-drive that is immersive to their lifestyle rather than a mere jaunt through town, Krebs said.
The Cox study focused on "trailblazers," those consumers who are early adopters of technology. The trailblazers said, when it comes to service, they don't want to go to a dealership or have a technician come to them. They prefer for the vehicle to handle as much maintenance as possible on its own with over-the-air updates.