COVID-19 has forced car brands to rethink the way they cater to car-buyers’ needs, with Audi Australia announcing a timely and novel approach – take the car salesman out of the equation altogether.
Audi has launched an online purchase platform across its full product range to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for online shopping. In doing so, it’s also acknowledging the things that make buying a car one of the most dreaded negotiations people face.From today, Audi buyers will be able to research, reserve and pay for a new car from the comfort of their homes, removing not only the risk of contracting a nasty virus but also any unwelcome face-to-face, high-pressure sales speak from number-driven showroom staff.
The move to a full online platform has worked well for car brands in other countries, despite the naysayers. When Tesla announced to the US market a year ago that it planned to shift most of its sales to online, analysts questioned its ability to grow market share without physical showrooms. But the move has paid off.
In the UK, Tesla’s online sales capability is credited with helping it top sales in April, where the local car market suffered its worst month in more than seven decades thanks to coronavirus-enforced dealership closures. Sales of new vehicles there were down by more than 97 per cent for the month, but Tesla still managed to move 638 Model 3s, accounting for 15 per cent of cars sold. Next best was fellow battery-electric ride Jaguar’s I-Pace, with 8 per cent (367 cars sold).
According to a Forbes report, a new study by Frost & Sullivan estimates that almost 825,000 new vehicles were sold online globally in 2019, either through online financing or by making a part payment online. Roughly 6 million vehicles are expected to be sold through online platforms by 2025.
Buyers often do most of their research online already so the online car sales platform seems a natural progression and more dynamic. Some believe it may become a more comfortable alternative to visiting the car showroom floor. So, could this mean the death of car dealerships?
Unlikely. It’s more probable that dealerships will thrive as experience and test-drive centers, and, ultimately, the sites where customers will go to pick up the vehicles they’ve bought online.
Audi has moved fast to capitalize on our growing penchant to click-and-collect, saying it’s the first premium car brand to offer a complete end-to-end online car purchase experience in Australia.
“At a time like this, where many Australians would rather make their purchases from the security of their own home, we wanted to create a tailored online solution that allows Audi customers to do just that,” an Audi Australia spokeswoman says. The platform will enable customers to find their preferred vehicle on its homepage before refining its location, price, engine, feature and color, along with relevant Manufacturer’s Recommended Drive-away Price (MRDP) for whichever state or territory the car’s being bought in.
The local dealership will be in touch with the buyer to offer a “virtual walk-around” of the specified car, or even deliver the test drive to their door. If the ride meets with approval, it can be reserved with a refundable $500 credit card payment. Once the deal is done, the buyer can choose to have the car delivered, meaning the whole transaction could take place without going into an Audi showroom at all.
But Audi knows mistakes can still be made. It’s made it clear that if the buyer chooses not to go ahead with a purchase, they will get a full refund.