Automotive Continues Comeback Leading With Digital-First Tools

Although consumer shopping behaviors are changing, the automotive market continues its comeback, with the digital-first economy playing a lead role and a newly-minted publicly-traded company — Shift Technologies — among its ranks.

While the comeback has not yet resulted in higher new vehicle sales, Comscore reported this week that online new vehicle shopper interest has rebounded from its lowest point during the pandemic. The company’s research shows that dealer incentives appear to have jumpstarted sales. In August 2020 over 1.3 million new vehicle sales, up from about 710,000 in April 2020.

“Automakers have thus far done a decent job responding to the challenges of the pandemic —supporting and incentivizing consumers, implementing new safety protocols to get plants reopened, and working with dealers to launch novel shopping experiences both online and in person,” said Comscore Vice President, Commercial, Dennis Bulgarelli. “In order for auto makers to continue to reach buyers, it remains critical for them to adapt to the changing consumer behavior during the pandemic.”

Comscore also says the used car online marketplace has spiked during the pandemic. For example, Carvana, an online marketplace for new and used cars, saw 58 percent more visitors to its site in August than 2019, and there has been a sustained lift from the low points of March and April. On the new car side, use of Carvana’s “Car Finder” tool has skyrocketed, with August 2020 showing a 276 percent year-over-year increase in users. New vehicle shoppers also increased this summer to around 16 percent of the market, above the 10 percent seen last year.

The Comscore report also found direct-to-consumer initiatives are paying dividends. In August, Jeep and Ram visitors drove, Fiat Chrysler’s online retail experience site, to its highest number of unique visitors since launching in April.

“Another example of the pent-up excitement for compelling models is the visitor boom saw when the new Bronco and Bronco Sport were announced in July 2020,” Comscore said in a statement. Ford saw a 79 percent increase from the previous year in visits to its shopping website, mostly from shoppers looking into its Bronco “Build & Price” tool, Comscore reported. And this August, traffic to the site stayed elevated, with the shopper site up 17 percent and inventory pages up 43 percent from August 2019.

All of which is positive news for online car sales platform Shift Technologies, which has closed its deal with Insurance Acquisition Corp. The transaction provides Shift with approximately $300 million in capital. Starting Thursday (Oct. 15) Shift began trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol SFT and warrants under ticker symbol SFTTW.

“Trading on the Nasdaq represents an extremely exciting milestone for our company. We want to extend a huge thanks to the entire Shift team for their hard work and dedication, our amazing customers for their trust in us to deliver an exceptional experience, and to our shareholders for their support,” Shift Co-CEO George Arison said in an announcement. “We look forward to delivering shareholder value for years to come.”