Opinion: Should you still buy a car during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Let’s not beat around the bush. Car sales have crashed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s no avoiding its effects, as stock markets, retail and travel have also been murdered by the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, with no sign of relief any time soon and people are losing their jobs in these and others sectors. If you still feel like buying a car, there are some options, but on the whole, there probably won’t be any new cars to buy soon as several carmakers are switching focus for the time being.
In light of lockdown measures, several local dealers are offering to home-deliver the car to you for test-drives, or presenting a pick-drop service if you need to service your car. All are promising to disinfect your car before handing it over to you. Some of these are free, while others might be an extra-cost option, so be sure to call up the specific dealer.
Unlike the last global recession in 2008, banks are actually flush with cash right now as they’ve quietly stopped giving out business loans to smaller companies, while putting out a “we are here to help” message in public. But this also means, assuming you can prove your job is secure, you can get a good deal on a car loan if you’re still itching to buy a new car.
There are probably good deals to be had in the used car sector as well, both from pre-owned car dealers as well as private sellers. Do your community a favour though, and don’t bargain too hard if you’re buying from an average individual. He or she probably desperately needs the money to survive if they are selling at this point of time.
As for carmakers themselves, most of them have shut production in virus epicentre countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China and pretty much all of Europe. Many are doing good work while others are happy to cash in on positive publicity. The American manufacturers are the first to step up by offering to build big-ticket items like ventilators, as the United States is starting to reel under the pandemic due to taking the issue seriously a little too late.
Ford has pledged to produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days using volunteer labour. General Motors wants to make 10,000 ventilators per month and up to 100,000 masks per day, although they will take time to ramp up as they figure out the logistics while battling a public chiding from President Trump. Tesla is offering an unspecified number of free ventilators globally, and has already delivered 1,200 to the United States from China. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has committed to manufacturing one million face masks a month and provide food for children through charities, although its activities seem to be limited to the United States. Even Toyota has committed to making medical face masks in their U.S. factories for local use, while Honda has pledged to donate just US$ 1 million to North American charities to cover basic needs.
The European brands seem to be offering lukewarm responses to the virus, considering their location. Lamborghini has committed to making 1,000 face masks and 200 face shields a day, and production has already started, for donation to a hospital in hard-hit Italy. VW has pledged to pay for a 1,100-bed hospital in India. Mercedes-Benz has offered to produce medical equipment on their 3D printers, without giving any details or predicted volumes. And Jaguar-Land Rover has lent about 160 vehicles to the Red Cross globally for an unspecified amount of time, many of them the new Defenders from now-cancelled launch events, making sure they get maximum pre-sales exposure anyway. BMW et al are eerily silent, only offering payment-installment relief to their existing debt-laden customers who buy their products on half-decade loans.
Even Chinese carmakers are stepping up, as GAC has announced that they sent out 550,000 face masks globally and will themselves start producing face masks in two weeks, SAIC-Wuling is already building machines that produce face masks, and BYD already claims to be the largest face-mask producer in the world. It is unclear what the Japanese carmakers are doing at the moment, although many of them were apparently struggling already with the global car sales slowdown. Korean carmakers haven’t stepped up yet either, and brands such as Kia are still “considering” the production of face masks.
Rather than just releasing stupid logos to promote social distancing in confusing ways (leave that to McDonald’s, where it makes sense), more companies will probably get involved in the production of medical equipment as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down in, ironically, the “developed” nations in North America and Europe. China and a few other Far-East Asian countries have it under control, while the Asian-subcontinent countries aren’t even ready for it yet as they under-report their figures so far. Prepare for a long, frugal summer.