Mercedes-Benz is among the pioneers of online car sales

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When you think about it, we should have known this day was coming – the day when you wake up in the middle of the night, switch on you laptop and then five minutes later you go to bed with one more car added to your garage.

The premises for this have been laid a long time ago with the rapid advent of the internet. The first to feel the blow were IT and electronics retailers who were forced to move online, but nowadays you can virtually buy anything online from three pounds of apples to a condo in Monaco.

Somehow cars have managed to elude the claws of the click-and-buy movement, but it seems they’ve only been able to come this far. Together with a few other brands, Mercedes-Benz is starting to investigate into the possibility of buy your next car online, without having to go to the dealership for test-drives, papers and even picking up your new car.

The main reason behind the reluctancy with which people used to regard online shopping for cars is that they wanted to see, feel and drive their new car in person. Now, though, the choice is more and more connected to a certain brand and you also get tons of independent information and opinions about each new model via internet, so it’s really easy to make an informed decision.

As for Mercedes-Benz, they’re testing this possibility on two different European markets: Germany and Poland. The customers are able to buy a pre-configured vehicle for the same price they would get in a dealership, but the company officials discovered most people use the system for chatting real time with the Mercedes-Benz employees, getting more info on the cars or booking test drives. A bit of a slow start for internet sales, then, but it’s a start.

Olla Kaellenius, Daimler board member for Mercedes-Benz, refused to give specific numbers about how many people actually went with the final click, but they do exist. Besides, Mercedes-Benz has to thread carefully as to not upset its traditional dealers who might feel a bit threatened by this new system.

“We could potentially drive transaction traffic up on our website if we would lower prices, but we don’t want to do that. One of the experiences of shopping on the Internet has been the expectation that’s where you get the least costly alternative — that’s not the case with us,” Kaellenius said. “We don’t want to replace our dealers or change the pricing dynamics with this. We want to make it a portal of convenience and that seems to be working so far.”

So the key focus isn’t to convince as many people as possible to start buying cars online, but to offer the possibility of doing so to those who are interested. That actually makes sense. As for us, the pleasure of embarking on the short trip to the local dealership and climbing in what will soon become your new car can’t be compared to the triviality of opening a new browser tab. If that makes us a bunch of old farts, then we’ll happily wear that tag.