Will Driverless Vehicles Be Purchased Online?
So, we know that driverless cars are on their way. But how will people actually buy them?
If Ford, Chrysler, or Chevrolet started to roll out autonomous vehicles in 2018, we can guess they’d be purchased the same way we buy cars now — visit the dealership, pick it out, haggle, sign, and drive it home.
But with so many potential new players in the automotive arena, the standard visit to your dealership has been called into question — and it’s possible people will be buying driverless cars online.
Are you starting to think about what driverless cars mean for auto dealers? Be sure to bookmark our first two blog posts on autonomous vehicles:
- “How Soon Will Driverless Cars Get Here — And What Should Dealers Do About It?”
- “Driverless Car Companies for Dealers to Watch”
How We Might Buy Driverless Vehicles Differently
With companies like Google and Uber ferociously chasing autonomous capabilities, many people are speculating that we’ll be able to buy driverless cars online.
Imagine: You’ve gotten a nice bonus, and it’s time to retire your old wheels. You know that driverless cars are safer — over 90 percent less likely to be in an accident — and all that extra time you have to be a passenger instead of a driver will be fantastic. So you do the research, find the car you want, and click “buy.”
A few days (or maybe just a few hours) later, your brand-new car turns into your driveway, texting you or honking to mark its arrival.
Maybe the car has to drive you to a dealership or service center to sign some paperwork — that’s the added step that allows people to do online pre-orders with Tesla. But maybe you just need to complete a form on your phone, or on an interface with the car itself, and you’re good to go.
It’s a fun scenario. Now, here’s what is holding it back.
Why You Can’t Buy Cars Online
Right now, you can’t buy a car online.
For one thing, as 9 Clouds co-founder, Scott Meyer recently said in an interview, “Most people still want to touch it before they buy it. A solution might be having a vehicle locally they could drive and then buy online.”
While trepidation about online purchases for such a big-ticket item is a concern, younger shoppers seem less concerned. A survey last summer by Roadster suggested many Americans would be comfortable buying cars online (with a few caveats).
The greater obstacle in the U.S. is a set of laws and regulations that makes it impossible to buy a new car from a major manufacturer without going to a dealership. These measures help dealerships avoid market competition, so the car-dealer lobby isn’t likely to let them go easily.
Still, auto dealers might have a fight on their hands. Amazon has expressed an increasing interest in online car sales. The online superstore is planning to sell vehicles online with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, first in Italy and eventually in the U.S.
At first, Amazon will follow a model similar to Tesla’s — letting the shopper initiate the purchase online before visiting their local dealership to finalize paperwork and get the car. But as stigmas about online vehicle purchases wane, those extra steps could be done away with.
How Driverless Cars Might Change Dealerships
Buying driverless cars has a solid chance to shake up the norms of the industry. The easy flow of information, the potential to buy online, and the expectations of younger generations indicate it’ll be harder to have a sticker price that is manipulated in negotiations.
So what does this mean for the auto industry — and your dealership?
There will likely be changes, but without strenuous legislative action, it will be hard for dealerships to be removed from the equation.
That said, as more and more people research vehicles and shop online, and as driverless vehicles shake up the way we think about transportation, it could mean dealerships operate differently.
With more purchase decisions happening online (or mostly online), sales staff may not have to pursue leads as closely — and less sales personnel will be needed. Also, if vehicles can drive themselves to their new homes, manufacturers might decide they don’t need as many locations.
Worried? Don’t be. There’s plenty of time until then, and there are steps you can take to prepare for leads buying driverless cars online.
How You Can Prepare for Driverless Cars
No matter how we end up buying them, autonomous vehicles are coming — maybe in the next five years. That doesn’t mean an end to your auto dealership, but it certainly means some things are going to change.
Check out our article on what dealers can do to get ready for driverless cars, or join our free webinar forum on self-driving vehicles on April 27, 2017, 1 p.m. CST.
We’ll find your questions and give the fullest picture possible on how the new transportation revolution could shake up the dealership model.