June 25, 2024

Weekly Update: Navigating Challenges in the Automotive Industry

The past week has been eventful for the automotive industry, marked by significant developments that underscore the sector's dynamic and often challenging nature. From cybersecurity threats impacting major dealership groups to shifting trends in electric vehicle (EV) ownership, these events highlight the resilience and adaptability required within the industry.

Cybersecurity Breaches: A Major Disruption

One of the most pressing issues has been a series of cyberattacks targeting a leading provider of dealer management systems (DMS). On June 19, this major DMS provider experienced a significant cyberattack, prompting a shutdown of its systems to protect customer data. This disruption affected over half of U.S. dealerships that depend on this software for their daily operations. The attack was followed by another incident the next day, exacerbating the situation and exposing vulnerabilities in the industry's cybersecurity measures.

Dealerships had to revert to manual processes, significantly hindering their ability to serve customers efficiently. The attacks raised broader concerns about the economic impact, given that automotive sales contribute significantly to the U.S. GDP. The prolonged downtime could have far-reaching economic consequences.

The DMS provider’s response included efforts to restore services, but full functionality was not expected to resume until the end of the month. The situation was complicated by reports of phishing attempts targeting dealerships, with attackers posing as representatives from the affected company. This double breach not only disrupted operations but also highlighted the urgent need for stronger cybersecurity measures across the industry.

High Car Payments and Economic Pressures

Another critical topic this week has been the persistent issue of high car payments. Despite slight improvements in new car affordability in May, the average monthly payment remains near record highs at $752. Factors such as high interest rates, vehicle prices, and a surge in negative equity are contributing to this financial strain on consumers. Over 17% of car owners are paying more than $1,000 per month for their vehicles, a trend that has persisted for over a year.

Negative equity has become a significant concern, with 23% of trade-ins in the first quarter of 2024 having an average negative equity of over $6,167. Efforts to curb inflation have not significantly lowered interest rates, further compounding the issue. As a result, both consumers and dealerships are under pressure, with dealers having to offer more significant discounts to attract buyers.

Electric Vehicles: Trends and Market Shifts

The electric vehicle (EV) market continues to evolve, with recent studies challenging several assumptions about EV ownership and sales dynamics. According to a comprehensive study on EV Ownership Lifestyle, a substantial majority of EV owners (73%) are highly satisfied with their purchase, indicating a strong shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles. This trend is consistent across both Tesla and non-Tesla buyers, with many owners recommending EVs to friends and family, driving adoption through word-of-mouth.

Dealerships play a crucial role in promoting EVs, with most EV purchases happening at franchised dealerships or Tesla storefronts. Interestingly, a significant portion of these transactions is conducted offline, highlighting the importance of test drives in the purchasing decision. Nearly every EV buyer in the survey took a test drive, and many reported that this experience was pivotal in their decision to buy an EV.

Despite the positive outlook on EV ownership, challenges remain. A major automaker recently decided to pause investments in EV production, including delaying the launch of new electric models. This reflects the broader industry's struggle with profitability and market adoption rates. The automaker's electric division is expected to incur substantial losses this year, prompting a strategic pivot towards hybrid vehicles.

Aging Vehicles and Aftermarket Opportunities

The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads has reached a record high of 12.6 years, driven by factors such as higher vehicle quality, rising prices, and supply chain disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. This aging trend presents opportunities for the aftermarket service industry, with over 110 million vehicles in the prime range for servicing (6 to 14+ years old). As new vehicle registrations slowly increase, the demand for maintenance and repair services is expected to grow, offering a silver lining for dealerships and service providers.


This past week has highlighted the resilience required within the automotive industry to navigate cybersecurity threats, economic pressures, and evolving market dynamics. The recent cyberattacks have underscored the critical need for robust digital defenses, while the ongoing challenges with car payments and EV market dynamics reflect the complexities of the modern automotive landscape. As the industry continues to adapt, dealerships and manufacturers must stay vigilant and innovative to thrive in this rapidly changing environment.

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