By the end of the year, Mercedes-Benz will offer online car sales to customers in Germany and Poland.
High-end and high-volume cars will be available to buy through the Mercedes-Benz Connection Online store, although customers will still be directed to a showroom for the “final sales administration phase.” Customers will also be able to schedule test drives where they work and live, although the brand hasn’t announced where that aspect of the service will be offered. Similarly, the sales tactic could expand beyond Hamburg and Warsaw, but the company is mum on other possible cities.
The choice to offer an alternative to traditional showroom shopping could offer Mercedes several benefits. Among them, the ability to buy online might make the process more appealing to young customers who are accustomed to Internet shopping. It will also allow more efficient sales through smaller boutique showrooms rather than sprawling sales centers with heavily stocked lots. That will be especially helpful for inner-city sales.
Mercedes’ pilot project will also offer valuable feedback on how customers react to the revised car shopping model; something that will weigh heavily on the decision to expand online sales.
But the fact that customers still need to visit a dealer is an important facet to the plan if Mercedes ever hopes to implement a similar strategy in the U.S. Dealer associations are quick to oppose anything that might see direct sales by an auto maker to consumers.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla has been grappling with dealer associations while trying to sway law makers to allow factory-direct sales of its vehicles. In most cases, Tesla has been successful in its fight. That hasn’t been true across the board. According to CEO Elon Musk, Texas would likely be Tesla’s second-largest market were it allowed to sell cars there. But aggressive opposition by dealer networks in that state successfully barred sales of the Model S sedan.
Instead, Mercedes is using online sales as a supplement to drive more buyers into its dealers while cutting out some of the time consuming steps associated with doing that.
[Source: Automotive News]
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