There was a 3-percent uptick in online new-car shopping in November, while used cars showed a 1-percent drop, according to analysis from Dealer.com director of analytics James Grace.
The reason for these numbers?
A big new-car push from automakers to make up for lost ground as the year draws to an end.
“We did a study last month, just before the end of the election showing that all the election ad spend was sort of eating up traditional advertising real estate — and by traditional I mean radio, TV, etc. — and driving up the cost of online real estate in battleground states,” Grace said in a phone interview Friday.
“The election, especially this year being what it was, sort of created a tough environment for certainly local dealers but also OEMs getting access to the typical ad space that they would have had, as well,” he said.
There had been a few months where new-car sales either slowed or were flat, Grace said. Automakers responded with a big marketing push in November, a month that not only saw the election season come to an end but also the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping weekend.
As Grace put it, automakers “doubled-down” as they chase annual sales targets.
“There’s just a big push on the new-car front based on, in my view, a combination of the election and the relative plateauing of the industry. But everybody has targets for the year that they’re not wanting to miss, for obvious reasons, from a Wall Street perspective,” Grace said.
“So that’s really just driving a lot of activity on the new-car front. There’s a lot of deals to be had there, and in general, that’s sort of robbing from used,” he said.
Granted the increase in new compared to the decrease in used was not a one-to-one ratio, he said, “but I think a lot of people that would ultimately normally end up in a used vehicle are ending up in a new vehicle just because there’s such strong pushes from the OEMs and available inventory; there’s deal to be had there.”
Then, of course, there is leasing. An analysis from Edmunds.com indicates that lease penetration on the new-car side has never been higher. According to Edmunds, year-to-date lease penetration through October is at 30.7 percent.
And given the propensity for leasing these days, there may be would-be used-car buyers who perhaps opt for a new-car lease.
Grace pointed out that the data they’ve seen via Autotrader and Dealer.com suggest that most people are “payment buyers.”
“They’ve got a number in mind and they’re trying to get into the best vehicle they can for that number. So when lease deals, especially with new-car incentives starting to be the same number as that off-lease used vehicle, people are for sure going to choose the new when given that option,” he said.
“So, I do think that the increased trend on the leasing side, combined with the incentives, is just bringing that gap between new and used payments, if not prices, too close for consumers to opt out of the new.”