You might buy your next car online, but don’t expect that to upend the car industry.

Consultants have expected the disruptive power of e-commerce to spread to vehicles—the most valuable consumer products there are—ever since the dot-com boom more than 20 years ago. But the only significant change to the decades-old structure of U.S. vehicle retail has come from Tesla, which dispenses with independent dealerships in favor of directly controlled showrooms. Could the pandemic be the catalyst the wider industry previously lacked?

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