BIRMINGHAM, England - Ford and Vauxhall, the UK's two leading car retailers, have launched an Internet sales war.
The two companies have pledged to offer every vehicle in their lineups for sale on the Internet at discount prices.
Ford plans to launch similar sites on the Continent. Opel, Vauxhall's sister brand in mainland Europe, has no immediate plans to begin selling cars - at least not until the European Commission's Block Exemption rule expires in 2002.
Vauxhall will offer all models in its lineup for sale on www.vauxhall.co.uk at prices 300 to 800 below the suggested retail price.
Vauxhall was the first major UK manufacturer to sell vehicles directly to customers on the Internet. It has sold about 1,200 units since it introduced an Internet service a year ago. Only certain vehicles have been offered up to now. Vauxhall's new program will include its entire fleet.
Ford will likewise sell all the cars in its lineup on www.fordjourney.com. Prices will be discounted by about 5 percent. Cars will be delivered by dealers chosen by customers.
In Ford's case the inventory will be held in 'vehicle holding centers' in Dagenham and Corby, England, and Zeebrugge, Belgium. Ford will have about 100,000 vehicles in the holding centers, which it is already using for storage.
The Ford website allows customers to configure their cars and arrange financing with Ford Credit.
Earl Hesterberg, Ford's European vice president for sales, marketing and service, would not say when such a service will be offered in other European markets. Finland, considered Europe's most 'wired' country, was the first location for Ford Internet sales. The UK program will offer a broader range of vehicles and services.