E-Commerce Web Sites for Car Buying
Nowadays new car buyers can configure the car of their dreams on Microsoft’s MSN Autos Web site, as well as those of Ford, GM, and other auto giants. Many independent online car purchase and research companies offer similar services. See Figure 8.19. Car buying information provided by manufacturers, brokerage sites, car dealers, financial institutions, and consumer advocate Web sites has exploded in the past few years. Yet in the age of the Internet, the auto industry remains a steadfast holdout to innovations that might threaten the well-established and well-connected supply chain, the car dealership. American new car buyers simply cannot skip the middleperson and purchase an automobile directly from the manufacturer That’s not just a business decision by the manufacturers; that’s the law. Even so, many car buyers use the Internet as a place to research their purchases. Instead of selling new cars directly, Web sites such asAutobytel.com of Irvine, California, just put consumers in touch with a local dealer where they test-drive a vehicle and negotiate a priceAutobytel.com has been referring buyers to new and used car dealers since 1995. It also offers online financing and insurance.Online car-buying sites on the Web make consumers less dependent on what cars a dealer has on the lot. At online sites, buyers can customize a car—or van, truck, or sport utility vehicle—by selecting trim, paint, color, and other options before purchase. They can also use Web sites such asCarBuyingTips.com to help prepare for the final negotiating process.
a) Check out several of the Web sites shown in Figure 8.19. Evaluate them based on ease of use, relevance of information provided, and other criteria you feel are important. Don’t forget the classic: “Did they make you want to buy?”
b) Which sites would you use or recommend if you or a friend actually wanted to buy a car? Why?
c) Check out the Consumer Federation of America’s study on anticompetitive new car-buying state laws or similar studies online. How much does it estimate consumers would save if they could purchase cars directly from manufacturers online?
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