Internet car sales: who know nothing, speaks. Who know things, silents…


We are used to the bombastic communication with which OEM and NSC floods the media when launching new industrial plans, programs, products or processes. Remember Saturn? The Opel Difference? The ‘new deal’ of the electric car? The new sales processes at FGA?

Even in these days with ‘blasts of trumpets and drum rolls’, the spokesmen of Renault Italy informs the European markets that even in the Old-Country cars will be sold on the Internet!

Hooray! Consumers were worried about this flaw in the car distribution channel!

Let’s take a closer look: As reported by many newspapers and TV interviews, Dacia, the Romanians manufacturer of Renault Group has decided to enter the online sales and start from the Italian market, then other European countries will follow. With conviction and satisfaction Mr. Jacques Bosquet – the chief executive of Renault Italy – says this is the first case in Europe. Digital shopping in the Old-Country had never involved the motor industry. To purchase the car simply choose a deposit of 500 euros and choose the nearest dealer where to pick up the car. Dacia and Renault are the first European car manufacturers who experiences the “on-line dealer.”

“Today it is impossible to buy a car on the Internet – said Mr. Bosquet – Italy is a market open to innovation where Internet is very strong, so the project starts from here. We want to understand the public reaction and future needs of customers. The system we have developed is fully integrated into the traditional distribution.” Prices will be equal to those charged by the dealer network will initially Dacia Sandero – a B class automobile – will have only two special versions.

How will work. Prospects and potential customers enter the websitefor configuring the vehicle to suit their taste; They pay a deposit of 500 Euros; They fulfill information with their data, they search and choose the nearest dealership where the car will be delivered and paid.

Italian Media and the spokesmen of the French brand edited – literally -these communications: “In Europe this is a new virtual dealership. But in the US market for at least ten years they try to sell the cars on the internet, however without success. At the height of the dotcom bubble at the beginning of the millennium, the American manufacturers have opened websites with deep discounts for those who chose the path of the network. But the economic incentives are served by little. Other tentative attempts have been made through eBay in California. And even the Groupon site was launched in the US this summer in the automobile business by offering discount coupons up to 500 US$ for those who had decided to change their car with a new one coming out from a GM dealer in Chicago: only three responded. The car – after the home – is the largest purchase, and the real salesman is more reassuring than a cyber-assistant.”

Web failures in US? So far no auto sales in Europe with the web? Okay that we’re the Old-Continent, but we are in 2011! So far only failures with the web sales of new cars in the US? This is not the truth!

The total indifference of the european media towards the automotive (except when they comment the negative data of the market, the slow down at the Stock Exchange or the failures of Marchionne), the absolute misinformation -or the ‘domesticated’ press – bring all the media to issue statements questionable at least in this occasion.


1-Dealers involved in the web

Successful initiatives working for years!  Beside the experiences of Fiat (in 1999) with the special series of the Barchetta sold only on the web, I would like to point out the on-line pre-launch of the 500 in the US, the Ford efforts and the Great eBay reality! I personally know hundreds of Dealers selling in the US thousands of new cars via the web since the 90s: have a look to the koons website, please view the Rob Marshall experience or visit the NADA Convention Exhibit and you’ll get an idea of the real automotive web marketplace and it’s Great opportunities!

But also in Italy more than 10 years ago there was a young GM-Opel dealer from 1998 to 2006 has sold more than two thousand new cars thanks to the web, without seeing the final customer till the delivery of the new car!
Many automotive newspapers Quattroruote, InterautoNews and also Automotive News Europe have published several articles on this still unique experience, presented during the Motorshow and at the Automotive Dealer Day.


2-A good experience... dated 2003


Regarding the proclivity of the Italian dealers towards the new media, it is the truth that somewhat can be improved!
When I was a dealer I conducted a survey for the Internet Polytechnic Observatory of Milan, which showed that customers who request information by eMail to dealers, do not receive a response in 98% of cases. This is just an examples of how risky it is now working with these approaches from the past. If this is what the Renault spokesmen intend for the ‘weak attitude’ and ‘flaws’ in the automotive supply chain with the cyber car market… he is right!

A ‘pioneer’ Dacia dealer well focused! Surfing into the web you can also bump into a very good and well-organized Dacia Dealer – – who sells new cars with Internet from at least 5 years, with competitive prices, including delivery costs all over the territory! Ah, you could buy also a… Dacia Sandero, with better prices than the ones of the Dacia store!

In any case: a good initiative for Dacia and Renault: cheer up and… let’s keep in touch!

3-Daddario websales Dacia


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  1. Maurizio Sala says:

    I received from George, US, Miami, FL:

    “Well done Maurizio, always productive when people and entities push the ball and process forward. I presume that you have functional answers to the Trade valuation in the process? Onward and upward, be well!”

    Yes George, we will go in to deep asap with functional – and operational – answers!

  2. Maurizio Sala says:

    William from Taiwan gave his contribution:

    “E-marketing is popular for fleet sales of automobiles. I guess it’s a big hand for Renalult. Dearlerships do internet sales in US which are one kind of sales network.”

  3. Maurizio Sala says:

    Peter from South Africa shared with us his point of view:

    … “If you read my article: The Colonization of the retail network I state here that the internet is our last chance as dealers to differentiate ourselves from the other dealers. Our facilities, print advertising and processes all look the same at dealership level – so the internet is something we need to take control of and protect.

    On average, a customer looks at six different sites before visiting a dealer, so it shows the potential for selling online is there. The question is who should be selling online: the dealer or the manufacturer? Another question is do we fully understand the various channels that the internet opens up?

    I don’t believe that the OEM should be involved in selling cars at all, never mind on the internet. They have an unfair advantage in terms of advertising spend with keywords and customers naturally migrate to the OEM site first when looking at various models. When time are tough, I bet the OEM’s break their promises and sell cars at prices the dealer cannot match so it is very dangerous territory.

    As far as channels go, we have our standard sites, micro sites, social networks and linked sites all which open up possibilities for online sales. The problem we have as retailers is that we don’t manage these channels correctly despite our good intentions. My experience with lead generators is that many come through per day that are not followed up on. We all like the idea of digital marketing, but we are slow to develop and invest in the correct manpower and processes to support them.

    An excellent example of a dealer who has taken digital marketing to the next level is BMW Atlanta in the USA. They retail about half their vehicles online, but they have the infrastructure to meet and exceed the demands created by their digital marketing drive.

    We make two mistakes when it comes to internet sales: The first is we think its going to take over main stream selling channels – which it won’t. It is merely another powerful marketing and selling channel. The second is we do it halfheartedly and give up too soon.”

  4. Ricardo Oliveira says:

    @ Maurizio – In Europe, the “online car sales” concept was born with the car brokers’ (UK) and “mandataires” (France) activities. In the eighties they already sold cars to Customers without any previous personal contact.

    As you have said and demonstrated so well, nowadays there are several examples of online car sales. Many of them have failed, but… There is a kind of uncovered “online car sales” that is a big success, TODAY! Many Customers are negotiating car prices through phone and e-mail. Frequently they only meet the Salesman during the new car delivery.

    Let’s face it! Online new car sales concept is not new and answers to the needs of a typical Customer profile. But, no drama! There are still car Customers looking for information and personal advice. Just give each Customer what each one is looking for and reinvent systems and procedures to do it better and better!

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