Auto dealers embrace CRM to vie with Internet

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Over 80% of car buyers are satisfied when they buy cars through the dealership network, as opposed to 70% last year. So says the Online Car survey of over 7,000 consumers in Europe and the US carried out by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGEY), one of the largest IT consulting firms in the world.

But the future for the car industry is not pure dot.com – the dealer still has a significant role to play. The survey found that in the United Kingdom and the US 94% of consumers are satisfied with dealers appointed by car manufacturers. Independent dealers are also popular with consumers, with satisfaction levels of 93% in Germany, 92% in the US and 90% in the UK.

Pierre Durand, head of global automotive at CGEY said: “This increase in popularity is a result of dealers improving their customer relationship management to compete with the new entrants into the market, and in particular Internet car sites.”

“But car dealers and manufacturers cannot rest on their laurels. Although the new channels will not replace the traditional dealership network, they will make the market a lot more challenging and they are being increasingly accepted by consumers.”

Internet usage has also increased since last year’s survey. In the UK, Internet use is up 121% on last year; in France it is up 125% from a very low level of 12%. The countries with the highest web penetration are Sweden (70%), the US (66%) and the Netherlands (66%). Of the remaining markets, the UK has most using the Internet (51%), ahead of Germany (45%), Italy (40%), with France lagging behind on 27%.

Across all countries, consumers are tending to use the Internet to gather information rather than buy. Finding the best price was the main factor motivating people to browse car sites. The majority of car users in France (73%), the UK (70%), the US (65%) and Germany (53%) will be using the net to gather information over the next 12 months.

Durand said, “Car-related Internet sites will become an excellent new service for dealers and consumers, so they should be a priority for car manufacturers trying to find a competitive edge.”

Consumers avoid buying online because they like personalised advice, miss the shopping experience and want to see the car first. In the US, the issue of secure payment is rated an important deterrent by 57% of consumers.

Socio-economic factors, and in particular the type of car driven, influences use of the Internet. Consumers with a sports car were most likely to use the Internet (78%), followed by those with a luxury car (69%).

Durand concluded: “It is wrong to look at the Internet as a substitute for traditional sales. When developing their Internet strategy, car manufacturers must take the cultural differences between countries into account.”

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young employs 56,000 people worldwide and reported global revenues of 7.7 billion euros in 1999.

CGEY

Cap Gemini

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