The Impact on Cars & Personal Vehicles: COVID-19 Effects

POSTED July 8, 2020

The new normal that COVID-19 ushered in means modifying all types of lifestyle habits, from wearing masks in public to avoiding the crowds of sports and entertainment events. What does this mean for the impact on cars and personal versus public transportation? It means consumers are more likely to shift back to cars and personal vehicles rather than rely on mass transit, where it’s more difficult to social distance and avoid breathing shared airspace. 

“People are deciding that they need a vehicle,” said Jim Lyski, chief marketing officer of CarMax, in an interview with Business Insider. “They don’t want to ride on public transportation, and they don’t want to take an Uber.” There is already early evidence that car sales are up due to concerns over mass transit.

Personal vehicles have been evolving for years, but the pandemic continues to have an increasing impact on cars and technology by accelerating these changes we have been seeing. Here are emerging trends that are expected to continue:

Investment in new technologies 

Mass transit has the benefit of being convenient and time-efficient for riders who can multi-task while on trains and busses, such as accessing the internet or getting remote work done. Mass transit is also better for the environment with fewer emissions. Now, cars are catching up on both these areas with new self-driving and electric-powered technologies. Tesla, in particular, has led the way with EV grid recharge installations throughout the country as well as continued technology upgrades that make progress toward a fully autonomous vehicle. The need for social distancing while commuting and traveling may push more car manufacturers to step up the process of technology development to appeal to consumers. 

Attractive consumer loans 

Following plunging demand during the nationwide lockdown, new incentives offered by manufacturers have pushed auto loan values to new highs for both new and used autos. 

Several car companies are offering up to 84-month car loans at 0% interest –– a full seven years without interest. In addition, some dealers are allowing buyers to delay the first payment for up to 120 days to be helpful for workers on temporary furlough from work. Given these incentives, the impacts on car sales has resulted in some dealers seeing their busiest buying period in years, or ever. 

Better road construction

Improved infrastructure construction could lay the groundwork for more efficient cars, providing another incentive for consumers to invest in their vehicles. A new study from MIT researchers suggests that small changes in paving that create stiffer roads –– and thus more efficient motion transfer –– could potentially eliminate a half-percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. There are several ways to make roadways stiffer, the researchers say, including adding a very small amount of synthetic fibers or carbon nanotubes to the mix when laying asphalt. 

Today, the pandemic’s impact on cars is pushing them to make a comeback. Passenger travel is rising again –– lower than pre-pandemic level but ticking back up steadily. Even the nostalgic drive-in movie is making a return as Coronavirus halts traditional movie theatres. As the world moves forward with no clear end in sight of the global pandemic, cars are poised to be a safe haven for individuals and families for at least the short term, which may set up safer, more efficient and more attractive transportation for the long term. 

Dustin Whitehead
Dustin Whitehead is the National
Sales Director for PartsTrader.

PartsTrader Team - AUTHOR