Pendragon, the UK's largest car dealership and leader of the AM100, today announced an on-line partnership with Microsoft's MSN Carview, the independent motoring website due for its UK launch in the spring.
The dealer group, which in the AM100 update in December reported a turnover of £1.8b billion, will provide administrative support to the website via its new Nottingham customer support centre. Pendragon staff will offer a range of customer management services in the new and used car buying service offered by Carview, including online user assistance and query handling.
The deal is said by MSN to illustrate the continued importance of the dealer network in providing a 'seamless' car buying/research process.
Pendragon will have no branding on the MSN website and cars purchased online will not necessarily be bought from Pendragon dealerships.
Pendragon chief executive Trevor Finn said: "The success of an online car retail site is dependent largely on providing back-up to support the service offered on screen. "In the case of MSN Carview UK, Pendragon will provide this back up ensuring that customers benefit from a fully integrated service when wishing to buy a car through the site. "We will not only be responsible for the site's distribution network, but will ensure that the highest standard of customer service is available to anyone who needs help in the buying process, supported by a dedicated team of car experts."
John Brewer, managing director of MSN Carview UK, said: "In addition to convenience and the availability of a huge amount of independently produced information, UK car buyers still want a good relationship with their dealer, and a seamless blend of online, service and logistics.
"Through this partnership we have the capability to deliver this."
Mr Brewer is sure the number of car purchases online, while limited now, would grow - but yet there would always be place for personal contact.
Mr Finn stressed there was nothing written in the deal that guranteed a minimum number of purchased vehicles would come from the Pendragon network. MSN will operate using dealerships as 'online partners'. Their identities, Mr Brewer said, would be revealed closer to site launch at the end of March.
"Geographical location of the customer will dictate where the cars are sourced from," Mr Finn said. But all cars will be UK supplied.
Carview is the European version of Microsoft's US automotive portal Carpoint, which has been operating since 1995.