Automobile: face to online sales, the dealer blues

Posted on Nov 20, 2020 at 6:31 am

Do not throw any more! Weakened by the health crisis, shaken by the surge in electricity (which requires training salespeople and disrupts the after-sales activity), car dealerships must also face the growing weight that the Internet is taking in their activity, a trend they fear paying the price.

The industry has long lagged behind the boom in online commerce. Then on-screen tracking became commonplace for second-hand vehicles, and now the new market is getting into it.“All manufacturers have projects to accelerate the digitization of the customer journey, even if this is not necessarily to go as far as 100% online,” asserts Jean-Pierre Diernaz, General Manager France of MotorK, a company specializing in this activity. Brands must meet the demand of their customers, and in particular those of the younger generations, who no longer conceive of a purchase without performing at least part of the online procedures, such as vehicle configuration, 360-degree viewing or even making an appointment for a test. “

“Do not oppose sales channels”

This development entails several risks for dealers, starting with that of being completely bypassed. From the manufacturer’s point of view, selling your production online means being able to reach more customers, but also significantly reducing distribution costs. It is moreover by invoking this reason that the boss of Tesla, Elon Musk, had announced in March 2019 that he intended to do without dealers completely and achieve 100% of his sales via the Internet, before going back a few days. later.

PSA is not there yet, but the initiatives launched by Carlos Tavares to develop sales carried out from A to Z on the Internet worry distributors. Thierry Koskas, the group’s sales and marketing director, tries to reassure them: “Our efforts on online sales are not against members of our network but with them. They are stakeholders in it. The sales channels are complementary, they should not be opposed. “

Brawl ahead over the distribution of added value

For Christophe Maurel, who chairs the concessionary branch of the CNPA, manufacturers cannot have everything: “The automotive industry has been built on a model where inventory is absorbed by dealers, reducing risks for manufacturers. If these want to switch to direct sales, they can no longer ask their network to play this role! “ The automotive e-commerce revolution therefore involves reviewing the relations between the two parties.

In the future, this professional believes in a “phygital” model, which would combine the virtues of the Internet and that of distributors in the field. When you sell cars, it is indeed difficult to do without a local relay to organize a test, ensure its delivery, as well as after-sales.

Industrialists and sales networks come together to sing the praises of such a model. But the issue is who will bring customers to the dealerships. If the main entry point becomes the brand’s website, the latter will be able to claim a greater share of the added value.

Have your own visibility on the Internet

Most distributors have understood this well: in order not to find themselves reduced to a role of logistics subcontractor, they set up their own online sites. And rely on the fact that most search queries are localized (“new car purchase in Angoulême” for example) to generate traffic.

Another essential point: who will have control of the data? “It’s absolutely major, exclaims Jean-Pierre Diernaz. Without data, we won’t be able to do anything in the future. “ Aware of the problem, the group of Peugeot dealers refused to see its customer data automatically go up to the brand. “No question of delivering our business or being excluded from the digital path of the manufacturer”, exclaimed its president, Florence Gete, on the site.

These subjects worry the profession all the more since the European Commission is working on an overhaul by 2023 of the rules governing contracts between dealers and manufacturers, with no doubt on arrival more freedom given to the latter to adapt their network.

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