One aspect of the retail auto industry that has become very clear since the onset of COVID-19, based on my experiences and observations, is that new car dealers remain as vital and relevant as ever in the minds of people. consumers.

In an era when automotive technologies and modes of transportation are advancing at a rapid pace – when a global pandemic has forever changed the way dealers do business – customers have clearly demonstrated how much they value their local dealership. new cars.

In fact, the view that dealerships continue to play a vital role for car buyers is one of the many findings of a recent study conducted by Deloitte Canada, in conjunction with the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association.

The study, sponsored by TireLink, focused on three main areas of the automotive industry: consumer buying expectations, consumer service expectations and vehicle electrification.

Regarding the purchasing expectations of consumers, the study found an increased general interest in used vehicles, possibly due to the shortage of new vehicles and lingering concerns about the financial capacity of consumers going forward. .

From this increased interest in used vehicles, young consumers (18-34 years old) are more predisposed to buy used vehicles, which could be due to an affordability issue resulting from the negative economic impact of COVID-19.

When consumers research their next vehicle purchase, dealership websites and safety-related websites have overtaken all other forms of influence on the car buying decision, including word of mouth, websites. Third party web, media reviews and social media.

Interestingly, of those who bought their last vehicle from a dealership, over half did not visit other dealerships.

One in five consumers buy a vehicle the same day they start driving to a dealership, while 60% of buyers close a deal within two weeks.

This continued loyalty to dealers is further bolstered by data that eight in 10 car buyers still prefer to buy a vehicle from a dealership, as opposed to an online shopping experience (this trend is unchanged from last year). ).

This indicates that consumers continue to place great importance on visiting dealerships, chatting with salespeople, seeing cars up close and test driving.

When it comes to service expectations – when consumers bring their vehicle to a dealership for service – they rate check-in / check-out fast (81 percent), access to loaner vehicles (72 percent ) and real-time updates (68%) higher on the priority scale than dealer amenities such as a children’s playroom or on-site restaurant.

The final section of the study deals with vehicle electrification and identifies some key areas of this growing segment. He revealed that while interest in electrified vehicles is growing in Ontario, consumers still seem reluctant to take the leap into a future of fully battery-powered (BEV) mobility.

Interest in hybrid electricity is 35% among consumers surveyed, which represents an increase of 11% year on year. Meanwhile, interest in fully battery-powered electricity stands at 16%, which is also an increase of 11%.

Most EV buyers (76%) expect to pay less than $ 50,000, and many EV models are currently available at this price in Canada, and more are available each year.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on how and where people work, and these trends are likely to impact vehicle use in the future.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they drove less since the pandemic, 69 percent said they plan to drive as much or less in the future, and 35 percent said they plan to work at home every day or a few times a day. the week.

In conclusion, the auto industry is (and always has been) about people. Car designs, technologies and customer expectations will continue to evolve, but old-fashioned tours and face-to-face relationships are still the driving force and lifeblood of the retail auto industry.

Michael Eatson is President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and President of Peterborough Volkswagen. This column represents the views and values ​​of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to For more information on automotive trends and careers, visit


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