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The changing behavior series: driving trust in the US auto market

In this post from ‘The changing behavior series’ we take a look at consumer behavior within the US auto sector and break down some insights from a recent Brand Innovator discussion with Dan Gray, Digital Shopper Content Manager for the Ford Motor Company. 

There’s no doubt that this is a difficult time for the auto industry across the US. However, with health concerns still prevalent, consumers are increasingly turning towards private transport in an effort to avoid the risk of encountering the disease in public spaces. For consumers in the US, vehicles that can serve day-to-day needs as well as long-haul travel are top of the list in Ford dealerships.  

While most auto brands saw signs of improvement with increased foot traffic to dealerships in both July and August, September saw a significant decline for all brands. This follows last year’s pattern where car sales peaked in August before declining to one of the year’s lowest months in September. 

This decline in foot traffic is reflected in consumer intent. When consumers in the US were asked in a survey if they had a spare $1,000 how they would spend it, we saw a dramatic spike towards saving in September and a decline in intent to purchase a car. This drop in intent followed three months of relatively high interest in purchasing a car remained, with the average across the 5 months close to 13%. By comparison, 22% of respondents said that they would save the money while 17% said they would repay debts and these fluctuated as the months progressed. 

A car is one of the major purchases a consumer will make so understanding the comfort level, especially right now, is key to building long term relationships. For brands like Ford, they are taking an innovative approach, embracing technology and trialling new payment schemes. 

Using technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Ford encouraged consumers to view their vehicles in the digital world before coming into stores to see the product in person. While this type of content is not possible for every launch, highlighting the key benefits, creating ways for consumers to customize or trial products using their phone can entice them to find out more. 

Recognizing that consumers are increasingly travelling by car for vacation, engaging in promotions that appeal to these behaviors will help shift the needle. With the holiday season just around the corner brands should use this opportunity to showcase the value in having peace of mind when travelling to see loved ones. 

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