Toronto, Ont. Sept. 29, 2020 – Some 38 per cent of used car-buyers and 46 per cent new-car consumers polled by Ontario’s Vehicle Sales Regulator (OMVIC) said they did not test drive the vehicle before purchase because they were unsure whether vehicle dealerships in the province would have necessary health and safety protocols in place. A salesperson was present in the vehicle for only 16 per cent of test drives.

In August, OMVIC asked the Automobile Protection Association (APA), an independent organization offering car-related resources for consumers, to survey consumers who purchased a vehicle during the pandemic.

“The data shows just how critical consumer confidence is to Ontario’s automotive sector recovery,” George Iny, the APA’s president said. “Canada’s auto industry contributes $120 billion to Ontario’s economy annually: it’s critical dealers take precautions to keep consumers safe so they can help rebuild from the locked down economy.”

The survey asked respondents to share their comfort level while shopping, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) use at dealerships, and how COVID-19 impacts their car-buying experience.

Key results from the survey include:

  • 19 per cent wanted more safety precautions at dealerships (including use of masks, more social distancing, solo test drives).
  • 13 per cent wanted a better buying process. Many noted they hurried their shopping for personal safety concerns.
  • About half the respondents visited only one dealership to complete the transaction. 21 per cent did not visit any website or visited only one website during the shopping process.

OMVIC also surveyed the province’s 8,000 dealers and 30,000 salespeople in early spring. A second survey “Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 and Moving Forward—Report 2” ran in August and sought information and trends related to sales, employment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and economic outlook. Dealers identified challenges accessing supply: 78 per cent said they have trouble procuring new vehicles, causing potential problems as sales begin to rebound.

While Scotia Economics reports vehicle sales rebounded by 1.86 million units in July, those figures weakened in August to 1.73 million units. Despite a downward trend, as consumers seek alternative transportation to avoid transit, dealers will likely see increased sales so long as consumer confidence continues to grow, and the sector avoids further lockdowns.

“COVID-19’s economic and financial impact on automotive retail and its workers irrevocably altered the sector’s present and future,” noted John Carmichael, CEO, Registrar at OMVIC. “Our survey reveals many of the used-car dealerships in the province are struggling to find inventory because 75 per cent or more of used vehicles sold in auctions are being grabbed by U.S. dealers who are willing to outbid Ontario’s dealers. I am confident as the economy recovers and consumers become less wary, the motor vehicle dealerships will see some positive signs of revival.”


OMVIC (Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council) administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) on behalf of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. OMVIC maintains a fair and informed vehicle sales marketplace by regulating dealers and salespersons, regularly inspecting Ontario's 8,000 dealerships and 30,000 salespeople, maintaining a complaint line for consumers and conducting investigations and prosecutions (or discipline proceedings) of industry misconduct and illegal sales (curbsiding). OMVIC is also responsible for administering the Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund on behalf of its Board of Trustees.


A copy of OMVIC’s Survey is available upon request. To request an interview with OMVIC CEO John Carmichael or APA president George Iny, please contact:

Conner Coles
Manager, Communications, Education, and Media Relations

Paul M. Yeung
Manager, Stakeholder & Industry Relations