US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

The Pandemic Reduced New Car Sales, but Renewed Emphasis on Private Ownership & the Importance of Cars in Americans’ Daily Lives

Motor vehicles have offered us the ability to safely distance yet stay engaged with our communities and loved ones during the pandemic. Large gatherings like birthday or graduation parties have largely been put on hold, but that has led to creative ways to still celebrate these milestones with drive-by parades. If for some reason birthday parties aren’t your thing, you can also use your car to attend religious services or to see a movie or concert. During a time when many of us are limiting our trips away from home and maintaining social distance when we are out, vehicles have become not only a way to get from point A to point B, but also a church pew, a theater seat, and a picnic site.

Additionally, a growing number of people who had been public transit devotees have reverted to private vehicle ownership. With heighten hygiene concerns and the fact that COVID-19 is an airborne disease that spreads most easily in poorly ventilated areas where people are in close proximity, some see cars as a safer commuting and travel option in a pandemic world.

Yet the increased dependence on vehicles in 2020 runs counter to declining vehicle ownership rates many thought would be the result of the sharing economy. So what does this mean for the future of motor vehicle sales? Automakers, in general, are assuming that the underlying trends and consumer preferences for vehicles and how we use them aren’t going to change all that much. In fact, although Uber’s ridership was down 75% between April and June, Uber Eats’ bookings were up significantly. Grocery deliver services have also fared well during the pandemic. It’s less that people have abandoned the sharing economy; instead they have reprioritized it to fit the current environment.

What about personal vehicle ownership? It’s no surprise that sales of new vehicles are down this year. The shutdown of many auto plants during the early part of the pandemic has hurt new vehicle inventory. Reduced disposable income also meant that many consumers opted for purchasing preowned vehicles. While there was an initial fear that consumers would choose to hold onto their vehicles longer and that used car inventories would dry up, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Because of the shortage of new vehicles dealers are actually paying more to acquire used cars to keep their inventory up.

All this leads to a complicated and changing picture for the motor vehicle industry and how cars fit into our daily life going forward.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research including the soon-to-be-published Global Motor Vehicle Outlook, as well as Global Motorcycles, Global Buses, and Global Foodservice. Related Focus reports include Motor Vehicles: United States, Hybrid & Electric Light Vehicles: United States, Bicycles: United States, and Global Medium- & Heavy-Duty Trucks & Buses. Other related titles available from Packaged Facts’ food- and beverage-related reports, including Food Carryout & Delivery as well as the companion report with timely consumer insights from our in-house survey capabilities. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Covid-19