Recent pan-European research into online car buying by Cap Gemini found consumer demand is growing. An average of 24% of car owners expect to use the internet for auto-related purchases in the future.
Some manufacturers are experimenting with direct sales over the web in specific markets, including Ford in Finland and Mitsubishi in the US, helping to protect against the entry of third parties. But the lack of direct comparisons against other manufacturers' products makes services unpopular with buyers.
Manufacturers are seeking to use e-commerce to open new distribution channels that will be accepted by dealers as an alternative source of sales leads.
But Cap Gemini believes it is only a matter of time before manufacturers open independent new channels. Moves by Ford to link with Yahoo and General Motors with AOL may be the first indication of this approach.