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Dealers and manufacturers set for internet battle for new car sales

Consumers are ready to embrace manufacturers web-based sales operations within three years, according to new research.

But consumers still believe dealerships will be the place to find the best deal.

Dealers with 76% of all sales from the online community will find this figure eaten away in three years to about 42%, as manufacturers establish their own online purchasing operations, according to research by Autohit.

It showed that 44% of car buyers were prepared to buy their next car online, having used the internet as a research tool first; 27% of those consumers indicated a preference to bypass the franchised dealer and buy straight from the car manufacturer.

Autohit, an e-business service company, surveyed 7,000 active car buyers who had used the internet either as part of the pre-purchasing cycle or with the intention to buy from an online e-tailer during the past three months. The respondents were taken from consumers using Car Price Check, Autohit's online price navigator.

Steve Evans, CEO of Autohit, said: "Manufacturers are not hiding the fact that they want to get close to consumers - something the internet does extremely well.

"At the moment traditional franchised dealers hold the upper-hand, but the consumer has indicated this will not always be the case.

"The win-win strategy for a franchised dealer is to look to consolidate part of his marketing activity and strategy with dealer friendly internet channels in order to reach these consumers."

He added that given the current fall-out surrounding 'rip-off Britain' allegations franchised dealers will be cheered by the news that 54% of research respondents thought the best deal would ultimately be obtained from the UK networks as opposed to the new internet operators or importers

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