Renault, Dacia want to expand in fast-growing market for online car sales
The Renault and Dacia brands plan to aggressively expand their online car sales, taking advantage of a trend in vehicle retailing that is expected to grow rapidly this decade.
The Dacia Store and Renault Retail Group online shopping portals could be available to customers in all European markets by the end of 2014, the automakers said.
Analysts at Frost & Sullivan say that car companies will increasingly use the Web to market and sell their cars. Globally about 4 percent – roughly 4.5 million vehicles – could be sold completely online by 2020, Frost & Sullivan forecasts, up from about 5,000 Web sales in 2011.
Using the Dacia Store, customers in Holland can price and purchase all of the low-cost brand's models. In Italy and the UK, customers can price and make down payments on Dacias.
The Renault Retail Group's service lets car buyers configure, price and make a down payment online for both Renault and Dacia models.
Other automakers that are offering online sales include Ford in the UK as well niche brands Tesla and Fisker.
Dealers 'in the equation'
While the purchase process is different, Renault says that customers must still pick up their cars at the dealerships.
"Offering cars online remains in line with our traditional distribution strategy," said Patrick Hoffstetter, head of Renault's digital factory division. "The dealerships remain in the equation. It is a type of marketing strategy used to reach a growing percentage of our customers who want most of their car-buying experience to be online."
Frost & Sullivan believes that car dealerships that fail to innovate could face the same fate as some large book and electronics chains. Leading retailers in the publishing and entertainment sector collect more than 50 percent of their revenues from online sales. This has forced the shut down of many megastores.
Despite the threat, Andreas Gissler, an analyst for the automotive group of Arthur D. Little, said he doesn't expect automakers to adopt a complete online model for car distribution in Europe or anywhere else around the world in the near future.
Many customers may want to purchase cars online and completely bypass the dealerships, but that is not something automakers will want to offer, Gissler said.
Thomas Chanel, customer marketing method manager for Renault's retail division, confirmed that Renault has no plans to adopt a distribution model that would bypass dealerships. He said dealer showrooms will always serve an important purpose as a marketing tool and will continue to handle customers' aftersales needs such as maintenance and repairs.
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