SUNBURY — The COVID-19 shutdown hit vehicle sales hard, as it did most other businesses.
Now that dealerships are open, buyers are coming in. One problem, though, is because car manufacturers are still catching up with production and have had difficulties getting parts due to disruptions in the supply chain, many buyers are opting for used cars, local dealers said.
“What we’ve run into under the COVID shutdown is, in March and April factories shut down until the middle of May,” said Troy Zimmerman, co-owner of Zimmerman Motors in Sunbury. “We only have 10 to 15 percent of inventory. May, June, July and August were very busy for us. September is back down to normal for us.”
Zimmerman added, “That shortage of new cars led to used cars being very hot for us.”
“The used car market has really been strong right now,” said Ted Brady, sales manager at Jack Metzer Auto Group, near Danville.
“Things are pretty good,” he said, adding, “A lot of manufacturers were running into inventory issues for new cars. Things seem to be catching up. I always call it the boomerang effect. We’re starting to sell stuff.”
Brady said a lot more people are shopping online than previously.
“That happened before COVID, but it’s picked up.”
Online shopping helped a Michigan couple find the car they wanted at Metzer’s. They were searching online for a Subaru with a manual transmission. The spotted one at Metzer’s and drove from Michigan to pick it up, Brady said.
Zimmerman said some car shoppers like to get out and car shop in person. But now they can even buy a car completely online in Pennsylvania.
“There’s an uptick in online transactions,” he said. “A customer can actually sign and do paperwork 100 percent online. I think it’s only temporary.”
He said that previously, customers could do some paperwork online but had to go to the dealership for the final transaction.
“We do have a couple people who appreciated that we delivered the car to their house,” Zimmerman said.
The dealership did walkaround videos of vehicles for those customers who bought used.
“We had a number of people do that,” he said.
Overall, SUVs are a hot item.
“Over last few years SUVs and trucks have been our bread and butter, and Chrysler has gotten away from compacts,” said Zimmerman, whose dealership sells Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.
“On the used side, the majority of those we sell are certified pre-owned, but we’ve also sold a variety of different makes. We try to keep an inventory on the pre-owned side.”
“SUVs are, without question, the fastest growing segment,” Brady said.
He said Ford trucks are the best-selling trucks. Metzer’s sells Fords and Volkswagens.
Last month, nearly 1.36 million motor vehicles were sold in the United States, according to statista.com, a statistics portal that pulls data from a wide range of trade publications, scientific journals and government databases, according to its website.
“The U.S. motor vehicle market tanked amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak in the spring of 2020, but sales began picking up steam in May 2020,” according to the site. “Rebounding sales may be a result of special deals that typically kick off in May, especially over the Memorial Day weekend, but the recovery held steady throughout August. That month, U.S. light truck sales exceeded one million units for the first time since February 2020.”
Overall, total vehicle sales in August 2020 still were almost 20 percent lower than the 1.6 million vehicle sales in August 2019, Statista reported.
“The next best thing is electric vehicles,” Brady said. “Sales will grow more in the next five years than they have in 20 years.”