Web Work: Who Owns the Car Customer?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

We've wondered about this for a long, long time: who's going to own America's internet-savvy car customers? It's a three-way race between carmakers, dealers and independent websites, all vying to provide the best automotive information in the most attractive form, and then leverage their e-relationship for long-term customer loyalty. Not a lot has happened on the CRM (customer relations management) front; when was the last/first time you received a well-targeted email from any member of this troika? Meanwhile, Peter Krasilovsky says the various players are successful at different stages of the car buying (what about owning?) process. "It's not winner takes all," the program director for The Kelsey Group tells Marketing Daily. "I think there is a realization that OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] are not going to dominate the market. There is a realization that some people will go to the manufacturers' sites, and then there's a person who wants to shop different vehicles, and there are people who want to be part of the car universe and not just when they are buying a car." To increase their e-appeal, dealers are adding appointment-making capabilities to their websites and "increasingly doing e-mail offers with coupons for services, even newsletters." Is that the sound of the "junk" button I'm hearing? The battle continues.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
4 of 9 comments
  • AGR AGR on Dec 14, 2007

    The consumer is more focused in his internet activities prior to a vehicle purchase. For new vehicles the manuafcturer/OEM site is the first visit for most consumers to gather information. The dealer site is the second visit to schedule a test drive. The lead generation/third party site is losing visitors. The various blogs/forums are gaining visits compared to a few years ago. Who owns the customer/prospect...nobody until this individual does business with an dealer, and a manufacturer.

  • S is for Supra S is for Supra on Dec 14, 2007

    I use the internet to get an idea of what I want. I then test all the ones I'm interested in only giving the salesperson my email address. I then get teh invoice price minus any incentives and shout a number below that around to various dealers adn see who comes up with a good price. Just make sure youhave financing in hand and know what you want to do with your existing car (if youhave one). that ismy only issue with buying a new car you still have to haggle over the trade-in or hassle with selling it yourself. I'd prefer to not have dealers at all. I want a non-commission mega car network where I can test 10 new models all at once (similar to Carmax). All cars are offered at invoice (plus incentives)and you just pick from what they have or order the one you want.

  • Reginald b hartfordshire Reginald b hartfordshire on Dec 14, 2007

    Damn the dealers and their special-interest-group-funded stranglehold on state franchise laws!!!! I agree with above(s)....give me an Amazon.com for car buying or more carmax (carmax can't sell new cars in my state).

  • Stephan Wilkinson Stephan Wilkinson on Dec 16, 2007

    I find it amazing that a modern production car seat can give somebody a backache in "about three minutes," even allowing for hyperbola.