Online disruptors have dramatically changed how we spend our money, whether on food delivery, taxis, TV shows or vacations. But while research into car buying has emphatically moved online, the actual car purchase has remained stubbornly linked to a physical dealership.
The absence of an Uber or Deliveroo for car buying means automakers haven't felt the pressure to substantially alter a model that is almost as old as the cars they sell. However, as technological change starts affecting not just the car but also what it means to "own" a car, automakers in Europe are slowly building the capability to move the whole car-buying process online.
The shift to online sales, automakers say, is in response to customer demand. "We have to offer customers another way in. It's all about not prescribing how you want your customers to behave," Roelant de Waard, Ford of Europe general manager of passenger vehicles, told Automotive News Europe.
The springboard for Ford's rollout of an online ordering system will be next year's launch of its first stand-alone electric vehicle -- the so-called "Mustang-inspired" battery-powered SUV. It's a significant milestone. With a new propulsion system comes a new mindset to purchase it.
Also joining Ford is the Volkswagen brand, which is rolling out a new IT system to coincide with the launch of its new ID family of electric cars that incorporates online sales as part of a wider shakeup of its relationship with its dealers and customers.
PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares told investors in February that he wants online sales within the group to increase from 6,000 in 2018 to 100,000 by 2021.
And across Europe automakers such as Hyundai, Volvo, Alpine, Jaguar Land Rover, Mitsubishi, BMW, Dacia, Mini are operating online sales programs or pilot schemes in selected markets.
Zhejiang Geely Holding subsidiary Lynk & CO, meanwhile, is promising to launch next year in Europe with a strategy that predominately relies on online sales.