2 Min Read • April 6, 2023
Inventory Issues Rear Their Head Once Again
Last month, rising inventories led to more shoppers in our monthly survey finding the cars they wanted in stock and visiting fewer dealers. In March, we saw a pullback on not only the overall Ease of Purchase score, but also the number of stores visited and the number of vehicles found in stock.
The Ease of Purchase fell to 81% from last month’s 85% — the second lowest number since we started tracking in July 2022. Shoppers were not finding the car they wanted immediately, and that may have been one reason for the lower figure.
The number of people who only visited one store fell dramatically from 44% in February to 27% in March. And while 42% of shoppers found the right car and completed their purchase at their second dealership stop, the number who visited three or more stores rose from 25% in February to 31%.
Last month, we saw for the first time in our survey’s history that most shoppers (52%) found the car they wanted in stock. In March, that number dropped to 43%. This is still quite high and is the third highest we’ve recorded. Shoppers had to go back to buying vehicles in transit, up from 19% to 30%. The number of shoppers that ordered vehicles held steady at 18%.
We also found that time expectations also changed for the worse. Those who said it took more time to complete the purchase of their new car rose from 34% to 39%, with fewer people saying it took the time they expected or less.
Specific steps in the buying process, like price negotiation and applying for credit, saw drops in crucial areas. Even taking the test drive wasn’t as easy, falling from 78% to 73%. One shopper agreed that while they didn’t have an issue finding the right car, they didn’t feel like a priority at the dealership due to long waits at nearly every step of the process.
Where we saw positive comments — and the numbers to back them up — was around a mixed use of online purchase tasks. Several buyers said that completing at least some of the paperwork online led to them considering it an easy process. The overall number of people who said they took this approach rose significantly to 32% from 22% in February. While 60% of shoppers still make the purchase completely at the dealership, that number fell from 70% last month.
This month’s results show that we’re not experiencing a new normal quite yet. The variability in inventory can dramatically change the purchase experience.
David Thomas is director of content marketing and automotive industry analyst at CDK Global. He champions thought leadership across all platforms, connecting CDK’s vast expertise to the broader market and trends driving our industry forward. David has spent nearly 20 years in the automotive world as a product evaluator, journalist and marketer for brands like Autoblog, Cars.com, Nissan and Harley-Davidson.