e27: Digitalisation is driving the new normal for Southeast Asia’s automotive sector

Stay home, stay safe. That is the rallying cry of the month, if not the year, as we embrace social distancing and travel restrictions to flatten the infection curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The longer these restrictions remain, however, the more pressure Southeast Asia’s automotive market faces. Consumer sentiment is weaker, with rating agencies revising their forecast numbers for vehicle sales in the region downwards.

As the pandemic continues, the burden on car dealerships is expected to increase. In Malaysia, some 50,000 members of the car dealer and importer workforce may lose their jobs if the crisis continues beyond two months. However, the common consensus is that COVID-19 is here to stay for at least the next year or so, as doctors and scientists rush to find a suitable vaccine or cure.

Demand for personal vehicles may slow down, but it will not cease. Commuters still depend on cars for transport, especially with transmission fears resulting in plunging public transportation ridership numbers around the world. COVID-19 has challenged dealerships to rethink the way they market their automotive offerings, reach their customers and find niches they can fill in this time of limited mobility.

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