RECKLINGHAUSEN, Germany - Car manufacturers and dealers in Germany have a long way to go before they maximize the potential of the Internet to improve vehicle servicing, according to a new study.
The study was carried out by the University of Applied Science in Gelsenkirchen/Recklinghausen, Germany.
The survey looked at the aftersales industry to see how it was evolving to make use of the Internet.
German automakers and dealers were measured against US outfits such as Autobytel and Carstation.com, which offer sophisticated online functions including service reminders, repair cost calculators, fixed price offers, dealer search engines and warranty information.
Only one German company, Schwabengarage, was judged to be in a position to offer Internet service functions comparable to those offered by the US organizations. Schwabengarage is Germany's biggest Ford dealer.
Among the car manufacturers, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Opel and Volkswagen offered the best Internet service applications. But all had a lot of room for improvement, said Ferdinand Dudenhoffer, who led the study team.
The survey predicted major changes for the automotive aftercare industry when the laws governing Europe's car dealers - known as block exemption - are reviewed in 2002. It said the customer would benefit from improved service, and would have access to full service price transparency through the Internet.
The study also suggested it is likely that new car sales channels, such as supermarket chains and online car brokers, would team up with existing workshop chains, such as Bosch-service in Germany. This would enable them to offer customers a service network, which by then would operate with improved online functions.