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Lookers forms e-alliance with supermarket chain

Lookers has launched an internet-based company that will sell new cars in a strategic alliance with Morrisons supermarkets. It marks the first partnership between a dealer group and a supermarket, although Morrisons is a passive partner and plays no part in the sales process. The move surprised analysts who were expecting Tesco or Sainsbury, which already sell car finance, to forge the first motor retail relationships.

Look4cardeals.com is being trialled at kiosks manned by trained advisors in three Morrisons stores - Oldham, Idle in Bradford and Hillsborough, Sheffield. It will be rolled out to other outlets across the UK later this year. The business will attract a 'missing generation' - people, usually women, above 45 who are anxious about visiting a showroom and are not internet-savvy.

“The public is comfortable buying from supermarkets so we are taking the technology to them,” says Lookers executive chairman Fred Maguire. “They can complete the purchase online, but we expect most will do the research and then go to their local showroom. Car prices will be the same as those at our dealerships.”

Lookers expects the business, under development for the past nine months, to be “very successful, with conversion rates similar to the showroom” and says it only requires modest sales to cover overheads. “We have total control over the business. I have no interest in selling groceries and Morrisons has no interest in selling cars,” says Maguire.

Morrisons, a £3.5bn turnover company with 113 outlets, is the fastest growing supermarket in the UK. More than three million customers shop at its stores each week. Lookers' finance director Allan Marston says the company will pay a rental fee for the in-store shops, but rules out extending the proposition to display cars on-site.

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