Tesla says it wants to close all its stores and just sell its cars online. Well, sometimes that’s what it says. Suffice to say it is comfortable making an online sales model its default sales position. A survey of 2,000 US new car shoppers conducted by Urban Science in cooperation with Harris Poll finds more than 80% of prospective new car purchasers surveyed said they would not purchase a new car before seeing it, touching it, and driving it first.
Randy Berlin, global director of dealer services at Urban Science, tells Automotive News that despite the conventional wisdom that younger shoppers prefer to do everything online, as a group they visit nearly 4 dealers before making a buying decision. In comparison, baby boomers tended to visit just 2 dealers on average.
“That’s one of the important findings of this from a dealer standpoint,” Berlin says. “Right now all the data or so-called studies provided to the industry indicate that customers are visiting only like 1.2 dealers. This research is saying quite the opposite.
“And the total misnomer that the young people want to do everything online? This flips it on its head because they’re visiting over three dealers. And they’re the ones that are looking at multiple brands, but also multiple dealers, to make that decision. Intuitively, I guess that makes sense. It’s their first major purchase. They’re not loyal to any brand yet. So for them it really is an active shopping process.”
The internet has altered the new car sales experience in important ways, however. Today, price transparency is common. Everybody knows what everybody else is paying for a particular car, usually long before they actually go to a dealership to see the car for themselves. That has actually fostered greater trust in dealers since there is less reason to believe different customers are paying more or less for a car. Today, the discussion is about the car, not the price.
81% of car shoppers trust the information they receive from a franchised dealership according to the Urban Science survey, which also included input from 200 dealers. Some of you may have difficulty believing the level of trust is that high, especially if you are older have experienced the fast shuffle that was a mainstay of the car shopping experience for generations.
The survey appears to have been done with an agenda in mind but could have important significance for Tesla nevertheless. Even Apple, which served as a model for the Tesla sales experience, has stores where people can go to touch and feel the products before they purchase them. We would be interested in hearing from our CleanTechnica readers on this subject. Would you be comfortable buying a car without ever seeing it or taking it for a test drive? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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