Navigating the Shifts in Online Car Buying: Insights and Trends

by AutoExpert   |  10 June, 2024

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Hey everyone! Let’s chat about the rollercoaster world of car buying—especially the online kind. We're here to spill some real tea on what’s been going down with car dealers and their online sales escapades.

So here’s the lowdown: A while back, when COVID-19 had us all holed up, many thought it would kickstart a revolution in online car sales. The idea was that car dealerships would jump on the digital bandwagon big time. We saw investors pouring cash into tech startups, betting big on a digital car-buying future. But guess what? Things didn’t quite pan out that way.

Online Car Buying

Instead, when the pandemic dust started to settle, dealers faced huge inventory shortages. This crunch forced many to ditch their newfound online strategies and revert to the old-school, in-your-face sales tactics. You know, the kind that makes you want to sprint for the exit. And now, with these inventory issues still lingering, it looks like sites like Cars.com and maybe even Amazon are set to become the new heavyweights in online car sales.

Online Car Buying

During those early pandemic days, dealers were all about adapting. They introduced straightforward, no-haggle pricing on their websites, got all tech-savvy with virtual tours, and were backed by relaxed state laws that made online sales a breeze. It seemed like a golden era of hassle-free car buying was upon us. But alas, the supply shortages hit, and many dealers just couldn't keep up with the online game.

Now, with car stock slowly creeping back, you’d think dealers would be all in on e-commerce again, right? Not exactly. Despite better inventory, many are still playing it safe with traditional sales methods, which often means playing coy about pricing and availability.

Online Car Buying

Take this scenario: a loyal customer at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in New Jersey, called about an SUV he saw online. The salesperson, with no refrain whatsoever, told him bidding starts at $100,000 over the suggested retail price. Yep, $100,000...

And it’s not just about high prices. Some dealerships are so secretive they won’t even list their cars online. Why? They’re scared of sticker shock going viral and ruining their rep.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are stars—dealers who are doing all this the right way, offering clear pricing and detailed info about the buying process, making online car shopping a breeze.

Online Car Buying

On the manufacturer side, they’ve been trying to roll out their own online shopping experiences, but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. These efforts often clash with dealers who are scared to lose their personal touch with customers.

And then there’s Amazon, stepping into the arena with a partnership with Hyundai. It’s a big move, signaling potentially huge changes in how cars are sold online. But it’s still early days, and they’ve got some hurdles to clear, especially with dealers who are none too thrilled about being left out of the equation.

Online Car Buying

So while car dealers and car makers are trying to figure their online strategies out, third-party platforms like Cars.com might just be the middle ground everyone needs. They offer a way for dealers to dip their toes into online sales without causing a stir. And as for Amazon, let’s just say they’re gearing up, and it’ll be interesting to see where they steer this ship.

Online Car Buying

So there you have it—online car sales are definitely changing gears, but it’s a bumpy road ahead. Keep your eyes on the road and your options open, because the way we buy cars is sure to evolve!

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