AutoJournal June 2017
The June 2017 issue of AutoJournal is now available online. You can flip through it here, but first, a few words from the Editor in chief of AutoJournal, Jack Kazmierski.
Long Live the Dealership
Alberta-based Koch Automotive Group has earned the bragging rights as Canada’s first franchised e-commerce dealership. Their e-commerce site went live earlier this year, allowing consumers to buy a vehicle from two of their dealerships without ever stepping into a showroom. You’ll find a full report in this issue of AutoJournal.
Bragging rights aside for a moment, this was quite the achievement. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Koch, Assistant GM with the Group, and was very impressed by the lengths they’ve gone to in order to make sure that everything functions properly, and that everything is above board and done right.
It was also interesting to hear what Koch had to say about selling cars online. For starters, none of his customers has actually gone through the entire process of selecting, financing and taking delivery of a vehicle 100 percent online.
Koch says that at some point in the process his customers have felt compelled to pick up a phone, write an email, or visit the dealership in order to touch, try and speak to an actual human being.
Clearly, we’re not at the stage where Canadians are willing to drop tens of thousands of dollars on such a bigticket item without first asking questions, haggling about price, looking at options, taking a test drive, etc.
Are we there yet?
The question is, “Will we ever be comfortable with the idea of doing so?” It wasn’t too long ago when most of us were fearful of buying a toaster or a t-shirt online. Where is it coming from? Who is getting my credit card information? What if it arrives damaged, or it doesn’t look like the picture in the ad? With time, however, we’ve become accustomed to online shopping, and it’s something most of us take in stride nowadays.
Then again, a $50,000 car simply can’t be compared to an appliance or a piece of clothing. When committing that kind of cash to the purchase of an item, we want to see it, touch it, try it on for size, and experience it. The car purchasing process is personal. It’s emotional.
The good news for those of us in the auto industry is that consumers will likely need a physical location, like a dealership, to visit before making a purchase-at least for the foreseeable future. We’re not at the point yet where consumers are comfortable looking at a brochure, a webpage, or even a virtual reality version of a vehicle, and then committing to buying it without first interacting with the vehicle in a very tangible manner.
Perhaps our kids, or our kids’ kids, will be okay with the idea, but today’s consumers aren’t. It would seem that franchised dealers are going to need to continue to invest in bricks and mortar in order to sell vehicles. Long live the dealership!