Fiat Chrysler, GM try discounts, online buying to lift declining U.S. sales

car sales online

With auto showrooms closing because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors moved to reboot demand with seven-year, no-interest loans and programs permitting customers to purchase vehicles online.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s new “Drive Forward” marketing program consists of online shopping tools that will for the first time let U.S. consumers to finish the purchase of a vehicle through an FCA dealer without setting foot in a dealership, a company spokesman stated.

The move toward online sales and home delivery breaks with a long American auto sector tradition of automakers giving franchised dealers control of sales to customers. Dealers have battled Tesla Inc’s efforts to sell vehicles directly to customers through its website.

GM and Fiat Chrysler’s promotions of extended, no-interest loans – made less expensive by the Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate cuts – echo the “Keep America Rolling” sales push GM released to jump start a paralyzed consumer market following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But the pandemic has been pulling auto retailing into the digital age, with dealerships closed across the country and sales likely to deal with a further beating in April as social distancing guidelines are still in effect.

FCA shares dropped 4.9% to $6.84 in afternoon trading in New York after the company reported a 10% drop in first-quarter U.S. auto sales, as the pandemic hurt demand and stopped production from mid-March.

General Motors reported its first-quarter sales decline of 7% because of major declines in March, and said customers can use its current “Shop.Click.Drive.” program to find, buy and arrange for home delivery of an automobile.

A GM spokeswoman stated across the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands the automaker has observed two to four times greater online site visits and sales leads compared to the times before the coronavirus.

Hyundai Motor stated earlier that its U.S. sales dropped 43% in March due to the virus.

“It goes without saying that the entire world is dealing with a tremendous challenge that is having a significant impact on business and our normal way of life,” stated Randy Parker, vice president for sales at Hyundai Motor America.

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