Internet instead of a car dealership: buying a new car on the computer

Internet instead of car dealership: buying a new car on the computer

Mercedes also offers its new cars for sale online. © Daimler

Online trade is booming – and cars are not exempt from it. By 2030, it is expected that already 30 percent of all new cars will be purchased via the Internet.

In the Corona pandemic, buying a car was at times only possible without contact. However, new car sales via the Internet are likely to continue to play a role in the future – and an increasingly important one at that. Vehicle manufacturers in particular are driving development forward.

By the middle of the decade, more than 30 percent of all new cars in Europe will be sold over the Internet, predicts a study by management consultants Bain. The driving force behind this development is, on the one hand, the younger, digital-savvy customers for whom shopping on the Internet is a matter of course.

Car manufacturers rely on Internet sales

On the other hand, the manufacturers themselves also have an interest in getting at least part of the distribution into their own hands in order to save on the expensive dealer network. Some brands such as Tesla, Polestar or Lynk& Co are already doing away with physical bases in whole or in part, others like Mercedes at least offer the option of buying their own car online. In addition, portals such as Autohero also sell.en, or vehicles directly via the network.

And even the traditionally rather conservative new car customers in Germany are open to buying online, as a survey by the KuS expert organization shows. Around 12 percent of participants would definitely complete the entire car purchase process online – from vehicle presentation to signature.

Only 8 percent rejected online purchasing completely. Franz Reiner, CEO of Daimler Mobility, also observed a relatively high level of approval: “Online purchasing is definitely becoming more important in Germany as well. The Corona pandemic has changed customer behavior. Although other parts of the world are quicker to adapt, especially the Chinese, the Norwegians and Scandinavian countries are also. But Central Europe has recently made strong gains in the acceptance of buying a car on the Internet.”

Confidence in Internet purchasing has increased

Positive experiences with online purchases of other consumer goods play a role here. Relatively reliable dealer and product rating systems and consumer-friendly return policies have quickly built trust in the past. And across all age groups; even senior citizens have long since ceased to form a disconnected group online.

All together should profit in the long run not only from a comfort gain, but also from a price advantage, because a central on-line selling over the manufacturer or a third offerer bypasses the indirect selling system over the authorized dealers grown for decades. “The stationary car trade is very expensive. The customer pays a good 10 percent of the new car price just for the dealership,” explains car expert Ferdinand Dudenhoffer of the CAR Center Automotive Research in Duisburg. If dealers were removed from the marketing chain between the factory and the customer, a lot of money could be saved.

Daimler is working on online buying experience

The biggest obstacle at present is probably still technology. But there is progress there as well. Daimler Mobility, for example, is working on a seamless online buying experience. Among the most important components is automating the credit application process. “Today, we can already score fully automatically in more than 80 countries,” says Daimler Mobility CEO Reiner. “This means that the application comes in digitally and is checked digitally, without anyone looking at it. Then the customer or dealer gets credit approval within seconds.”At the beginning of 2021, the Stuttgart company had already introduced the possibility of a digital contract signature, so that in the meantime the complete purchase transaction can be made from the computer.

Reiner himself does not see an insoluble conflict with contract retailing in the long term. “Dealers are not only ready for the digitization of the car buying process, but they are demanding it. Because customers also demand it.”A luxury brand in particular can also benefit from a dealer who lifts the emotional buying process out of the sober web and acts as a face for the customer. At least in the mind of brand strategists, a Mercedes is not bought like any other commodity. A real contact person is also important in other respects: because all cars have to be inspected regularly, and many also have to be repaired. But that can’t be done online for the foreseeable future. (SP-X)

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