On-line Car Buying Is Alive And Well In China

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
on line car buying is alive and well in china

Ever since the late 90s, car manufacturers and especially car dealers were scared of the Internet. By the end of the 90s, it was agreed that the likes of Carpoint or Autobytel would turn into huge virtual showrooms and would put dealers out of business. It didn’t happen. The opposite happened. The many car shopping sites drove business to dealers. Ten years later, there it is again: The specter of the wicked disintermediation has returned. Direct sales to customers via electronic media are popping up in the world’s largest auto market.

Unencumbered by harsh franchise laws, and faced with stiff competition amongst more than 100 car manufacturers, Chinese automakers are starting to sell vehicles online, even via TV.

Last year, China’s SAIC set up a sales website for their Rover Roewe 550, which gets “more than 20,000 hits per day,” reports an aghast The Nikkei [sub], which says that such an approach would be “largely taboo in Japan.”

The site isn’t quite disintermediating yet. It has the usual 3-D images, car data etc. to drive buyers to dealers. However, it shows which dealers give the highest discounts, something very taboo amongst manufacturer-sponsored sites.

Geely is going one further. Customers who order a car on-line can receive a 30 percent discount if they are the lucky winner. Such a practice would cause howling protests and lawsuits elsewhere.

Worried about being disintermediated, dealers go on the counter-attack. Chinese BMW dealers have partnered with a Shanghai-based TV shopping firm. TV shoppers bought 19 cars in the first hour.

Dealers of Daimler, known as “Benz” in China, are hawking Mercedeses on TV at up to 22 percent off. The mere idea would make Dr. Z’s lose hair, and turn his moustache bright grey, if it wouldn’t already be that way.

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  • Dimwit Dimwit on May 11, 2010

    It's a pity there isn't more info. China could be a harbinger of future auto retailing. What they need to establish is: Are online sales in areas already *well* served by dealerships? Underserved? Nonexistant? What are the buyers looking for? What are they avoiding? Is it a time issue? An information issue? Pricing issue? It certainly is something to watch.

  • Dynamic88 Dynamic88 on May 11, 2010

    Getting back to buying on the net - it will be interesting to see how it works out in China. If it were possible elsewhere, I wonder how many people would buy via the web? I imagine quite a few people might not care about test driving their prospective purchase - as strange as that sounds. After all, for most people are car is a refrigerator, and even if you look at the fridge before you buy it, you don't really test it out until you take it home a plug it in.

  • Theflyersfan They might not be convertible friendly, but if they work on getting the last of the winter crud off of the car during the first spring wash, it's worth its weight in gold. So many of the self-serve car washes seem to have some kind of mechanical problem with one of the nozzles, or out of some chemicals - want to do that at home.
  • Bill Wade It's worked perfectly for me. Google maps is quite good and music streaming is flawless.
  • TheEndlessEnigma How much is TTAC getting from the Amazon referral links? Once again, nice ads camouflaged as an article.
  • Prabirmehta Great review! Brought back memories of my 2005 Z4 - loved it! I recently drove the 2023 Z4 and it felt similar in many ways to my 2005 (despite the much nicer and updated interior). Now your review has me rethinking whether to buy another one? :)
  • Haruhi Where’s this exact location