An annual snapshot of the vehicle buying preferences of Canadians has shown that how we buy, what we buy, and who we are buying from are all undergoing significant disruptions.
According to Google’s Think Auto 2022 consumer survey, Canadians looking to buy a new vehicle are now more receptive to carrying out the process online, are more likely to consider an electric vehicle and are less brand loyal than they once were.
The findings come from an annual survey commissioned by Google and conducted by Kantar, a global market research and analytics firm. A total of 3,015 Canadians who purchased a new vehicle between May 2021 and May 2022 were surveyed.
A shift to online
Omnichannel marketing is a strategy that aims to create a seamless shopping experience from the first touchpoint to the last, regardless of the channel a customer is using. It’s a strategy that automakers are moving toward, as Canadians become increasingly open to shifting away from the traditional dealership model and toward conducting their entire purchase experience online.
During the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses were closed, online sales increased 600 per cent, with six per cent of all transactions taking place online. And the shift is likely to continue; 54 per cent of survey participants indicated a willingness to purchase their next vehicle digitally. Eight in 10 also said they relied on online searches during their purchasing process, which includes searching dealership inventories through their websites.
Online is also where Canadians are seeking information and opinions on specific models: 66 per cent said that online video informed or influenced their recent vehicle purchase. In other words, vehicle buyers are now increasingly likely to use YouTube reviews instead of dealership pitches as a basis for decision-making.
Warming up to EVs
Google’s 2022 survey also reported that Canadians are incrementally warming up to electric vehicles (EVs). When asked if they are considering an EV as their next purchase, 26 per cent of survey participants said yes, with 12 per cent reporting that they had bought one. (In the 2021 survey, 18 per cent said they were considering an EV, with six per cent saying they had bought one.)
The use of government incentives remains a big influence when it comes to EV purchasing. The two provinces with the highest percentage of EV registrations were British Columbia at 15.7 per cent market share, and Quebec at 11.2 per cent. Each offer rebates on EV purchases. By comparison, the rate in Ontario — where EV rebates were removed in 2018 — is only 6.1 per cent.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that Canadians living in suburbs are 15 per cent more likely to consider an EV. This may be attributed to the fact that suburban EV drivers are more likely to live in homes and can install a home charger in their driveway or garage, a notable consideration for both urban planners and developers of condos and multi-residential dwellings in urban centres.
Perhaps the most alarming trend the 2022 survey revealed for automakers is that brand loyalty is not as powerful as it once was: 39 per cent of survey participants bought the same auto brand as their previously owned vehicle, which is an 11 per cent drop in loyalty from the previous year.
The drop is being influenced by several factors. Delays in delivery due to supply chain challenges had an impact across all brands. But brand loyalty was also surprisingly influenced by which brands offered EVs. One in five electric vehicle buyers bought the same brand as their previously owned vehicle, indicating a 50 per cent lower loyalty rate when compared to all new car buyers in Canada.
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