Change, of course, is the dynamic of the auto industry. Until 2020, most industry changes consisted of variations and cycles that came largely from within: the birth of new models, the demise of old ones; ongoing technological advances, such as the invention of LED headlights and advanced safety features; and shifting consumer preferences, such as Americans’ wholesale desertion of midsize sedans in favor of SUVs. Such changes are generally predictable and somewhat controllable.
The changes that emerged in 2020 and 2021, by comparison, came largely from outside the industry and were far less predictable, less controllable, and therefore more unsettling to both the industry and potential car buyers.
The biggest change, of course, was the COVID-19 pandemic and, for the purposes of this article, its effect on driving and car buying. Collectively, people drove a lot less in 2020, and car sales dropped from about 17 million to 14.6 million.
A pandemic-induced microchip shortage continued heading into summer 2022, and no one knows when that will change, allowing “normal” auto production to resume.