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Shelter on the go: How consumers see the car as a safe space

As the COVID-19 pandemic casts its long shadow over another year and the world awaits mass-scale vaccinations and braces itself for future resurgences and new mutations of the coronavirus, consumer habits and preferences shaped at the onset of the pandemic are in the for the long haul. That’s why the Capgemini Research Institute is continuing its series of research notes with pragmatic guidance on how organizations can take to survive and thrive in the new normal.

In April 2020, we reported on how the pandemic was shifting automotive customers’ purchasing behavior towards a preference for personal vehicles, health and hygiene features in cars, and digital modes of interaction. With no clear end to the health crisis in sight and despite the fact that new car sales have yet to rebound to their pre-pandemic levels, concerns over public and shared mobility seem unlikely to abate. That’s why in November 2020, for our latest research note: Shifting gears: COVID-19 and the fast-changing automotive consumer, we surveyed 11,000 consumers from 11 countries to examine the long-term effects of the pandemic and the emerging trends and opportunities in the automotive industry.

We found that as consumers brace themselves for the post-pandemic new normal and continue to shun public or shared transport they are demanding more health and wellness features and a digitally driven purchase experience. In fact, interest in buying a new car jumped from 35% in April to 46% in November 2020. Moreover, although economic concerns are tempering expectations regarding vehicle model type, a sizeable proportion (21%) of prospective buyers is prepared to pay for a more engaging experience. It is towards them and other target groups that automotive companies should gear revamped products, features, and messaging. The COVID crisis may have wreaked short-term havoc on the industry, but it has also accelerated certain critical long-term trends – digitization, electrification, and connected cars – that will ensue once it is finally over.

As we navigate this unprecedented crisis together, we hope that these research notes offer compelling insight into the new normal in a post-COVID world.