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November 3, 2020

EY survey: Two-thirds of drivers have not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and have plans to buy a new vehicle

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Interest in gasoline engines continues to rise

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly influenced new car purchasing plans for only 31% of Czech drivers
  • “Traditional” Czech drivers of cars with internal combustion engines are becoming more loyal to their favourite make of vehicle, preferring to visit multiple dealers of the same make. By contrast, almost half of those interested in alternative drive engines would visit multiple retailers of different makes during the purchasing process
  • When buying a car online, what 63% of respondents would miss most is the opportunity to see the car in person
  • Czech drivers would be willing to provide data for the purposes of determining the amount of insurance based on driving style and for the needs of municipal traffic and parking management
  • 29% of respondents are considering buying an electric car; the make of the car is very important – they see it as an extension of their personality

The fifth annual EY survey has generated interesting findings about the purchasing habits of drivers from the Czech Republic, and this year includes opinions from drivers in Hungary, Romania, Turkey and Russia. For two thirds of Czech drivers, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t affected their plans to buy a new car. All the compared countries place greater emphasis on diverse brand offerings in car showrooms. Interest in diesel engines is relatively low in all the countries, though these engines are very popular in Turkey. In Russia, up to 65% of drivers express a preference for gas-powered engines. For domestic drivers, the biggest obstacle to buying an electric car is the high purchase price.

For two thirds of Czech drivers, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t affected their plans to buy a new car

The COVID-19 global pandemic doesn’t figure very strongly in the plans of Czech drivers, only 31% of whom are re-assessing the situation. COVID-19 has more significantly affected the plans of drivers from other countries than the Czech Republic: 56% of Hungarian drivers, one in two drivers in Romania, 29% of drivers from Turkey and 47% of Russian drivers will stick to their plans. Every fifth driver in Hungary is putting off a non-essential car purchase. 5% of drivers in the Czech Republic still intend to buy a new car, but a lower-level model or cheaper car of another make. 86% of drivers would complete the entire purchasing process at a dealership. The remaining 14% – influenced by COVID-19 – would complete part of the purchasing process online.

“Czech drivers were relatively unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic in September, especially when it comes to buying a new car. This may change depending on how the level of optimism regarding the future develops. For the overall market in the Czech Republic, the development of the purchase of company cars, which dominate the market for new cars, will be crucial,” says Petr Knap, Lead Partner for the Automotive Sector for Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe and Central Asia.

Personal experience plays a key role in choosing an auto dealer

When choosing an auto dealer, more than 60% of Czech respondents rely on their own experience. The diversity of brand offerings in a car showroom is not as important for Czech drivers as it is for those from other countries (CR 18% vs. Hungary 46%, Romania 38%, Russia 34% and Turkey 37%). 52% of women and 38% of men would rely on the recommendation of acquaintances. As regards vehicle age, 30% of those buying a new car and 58% planning to purchase a used car would seek out recommendations from acquaintances.

37% of younger drivers (between 20 and 29) choose an auto dealer based on online ratings. Drivers in other countries place far greater emphasis on dealer marketing campaigns. Drivers in Turkey (62%) and Russia (49%) are most likely to be lured to visit a dealer by advertising. Czechs don't place much importance on marketing campaigns (15%).

The average number of visits to dealers by Czech drivers for the purpose of buying a new car has not changed much; it remains very low – 2.3 visits, on average – which is also the lowest average number of visits of all the surveyed countries. A sign of increased customer brand loyalty is evidenced by the fact that compared to last year, interest in visiting multiple retailers of the same make has increased (41% in 2020, 32% in 2019). 52% of drivers are starting to show a preference for visiting multiple dealers of the same car make when buying a car worth CZK 0.5 – 1 million and 57% of those wishing to purchase a used car worth CZK 0.25 – 0.5 million. Almost half of those interested in alternatives to gas-powered engines would visit multiple dealers of different makes.

In the last five years, the need to assemble a car to their liking has been steadily decreasing for Czech drivers. On the contrary, there is greater interest in reducing waiting times for a finished car. Respondents from Hungary prefer fast delivery even more than Czech drivers. Romanians and Russians, on the other hand, prefer the possibility of a personalized configuration.

The popularity of alternative fuels among Czech drivers is relatively stagnant. When buying a new car, 8% would choose a hybrid or electric engine (with a slight preference for hybrids over electric cars). In contrast, in Hungary, 24% of drivers are interested in making their next car a hybrid or electric engine, and in Romania, it’s 30%. In all the countries, interest in diesel engines is relatively low, though in Turkey these cars are still very popular (48%). “We find the main reason for the continued stagnation of interest in alternatively powered cars in the Czech Republic, and on the contrary, the increase in the interest of drivers e.g. in Hungary and Romania, to be the availability of subsidies for the acquisition of electric cars. While in Romania, the new-car subsidy amounts to EUR 10,000, there is no such incentive for households in the Czech Republic,” says Petr Knap. In the Czech Republic, exactly half of drivers would prefer a gas-powered engine the next time they buy a car. In Russia, up to 65% of its drivers are interested in gas engines, as EU regulations on emission reductions don’t apply there. This is also demonstrated by the very low popularity of electromobility (hybrid: 7%, electric: 1%).

When buying a used car, a guarantee of mileage and vehicle origin is a key element for Czech drivers in their choice of a dealer. This is reflected in the preference for buying a car from an authorized dealer with a certified program that guarantees vehicle condition and offers an additional warranty or service. 33% of Czech respondents prefer this type of purchase. In Russia, drivers would most often purchase a used car online (28%).

Every fifth driver in the Czech Republic could imagine buying a car online

20% of Czech drivers, 12% of Hungarian, 16% of Romanian, 27% of Russian and 30% of Turkish drivers can imagine buying a vehicle online. More than half of respondents in the Czech Republic would use the price calculation function when buying a car online, 46% would book a test drive and 42% would configure their future car. Like Romanians, Hungarians and Russians, Czech drivers would most often purchase a car online through the website of an authorized dealer. Compared to last year, interest in large sales sites (e.g. Amazon, eBay) increased slightly in the Czech Republic; however, compared to Romania and Turkey, the preference for this option is very low.

Czech drivers are interested in up-to-the-minute traffic information

Connecting your vehicle to the Internet offers a number of practical features. Czech drivers would mainly use services related to traffic information and vehicle safety. Delivery of goods to the car is a novelty that’s especially attractive in Prague and in the 20-29 age group.

Czech drivers would be willing to provide data for the purposes of determining the amount of insurance based on driving style and for the needs of municipal traffic and parking management – men slightly more than women at 43% vs. 32%. However, the reluctance of Czech drivers to provide data is the highest in comparison with other countries. When choosing a make, car connectivity affects customers minimally (7%), but more men (13%) than women (1%).

Electric car purchases are mainly discouraged by a higher purchase price

Our drivers are still most discouraged from buying an electric car by the high purchase price. Respondents chose the range on a single charge as the second most common deterrent; people are more informed and have a better overview of the time required to charge than last year. Since last year, the biggest percentage change was due to the time required to recharge the battery (from 3% to 10%).

54% of Czech respondents are thinking favourably about buying an electric car, while 64% are thinking about buying a hybrid. Interest decreases with age. Interest in electromobility is lower in our country than in the other compared countries. Most domestic respondents considering an electric car do so owing to lower operating costs and lower emissions. For 45% of respondents considering buying an electric car, lower operating costs are most important. 34% of drivers who drive almost every day, primarily outside the city, are in favour of electromobility, mainly due to lower emissions and noise pollution. While more men cite lower operating costs, more women lean towards lower emissions.

Interest in electromobility could be increased by government measures to promote a greener form of transport. More than half of Czech drivers would welcome support in the form of purchase price subsidies. Tax and fee reductions would increase interest in electric cars for 29% of drivers. At the same time, all respondents who currently drive an electric car intend to go electric for their next car purchase.

We most often travel around Prague by public transport or in our own car

For movement within the capital, Czech drivers primarily prefer public transport and their own car. When renting a shared means of transport such as a taxi, car share or bike or scooter, the most important factors are rental price (62%), availability at a given time and place (47%) and the possibility of leaving the means of transport anywhere (45%). Car sharing in most attractive in Hungary, while in the Czech Republic, it’s only attractive to those living in Prague.

The personality of younger drivers is reflected in car make

The importance of car make increases with the amount of the planned investment in the acquisition of a vehicle. Compared to other countries, Czech drivers hold the most neutral view of the importance of the make of the car they own or are planning to buy.

Compared to drivers from other countries, Czechs care least about the make of their car. The make is most strongly perceived by young people aged 20 to 29 as a reflection of their personality. Price is the most important factor when choosing what make of car to buy. For customers intending to spend up to CZK 500,000 thousand on their next car purchase, price is the most important factor in their choice of make. For customers planning to spend more for their next car purchase, positive experience with a given make is a decisive factor. 

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