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Online sales seen as future for the auto industry

Joe Avento • Mar 6, 2018 at 8:53 AM

You can buy just about anything you want on the internet. Now more potential customers are turning toward the web to buy a car.

Joe Trujillo, owner at Johnson City Honda, says his dealership did 45 percent of its sales over the internet last year, and he expects that number to continue to grow.

“I sell a lot of cars in Asheville (North Carolina) and Virginia and Kentucky because of the internet,” Trujillo said. “It’s not just local anymore, but even some of that is local people. Everybody gets on the internet to look at prices before they shop.”

American dealers sold more than 17.5 million new cars, SUVs and light trucks last year. Potential customers come into the dealership more informed about the cars after spending hours online researching them.

“There’s a world of information out there now,” Trujillo said “It’s made us better at what we do. We’re more professional how we do it. A salesman now has to have more product knowledge than ever because the consumer does.”

According to a survey by Autotrader.com, 71 percent of online car shoppers are simply checking out prices. Sixty-eight percent are looking for actual cars for sale. Sixty-three percent want to find out what their current car is worth.

“I have six people in my business development center and all they do is handle sales leads and service followups from the internet,” Trujillo said.

Some of the sales are completed from start to finish on the web without the buyer even seeing the car until it arrives in their driveway.

“We even deliver some cars to people’s houses,” Trujillo said. “They never come to the dealership. We have drivers deliver the car and go over the features at the person’s house.”

That’s good for buyers who just don’t want to deal with salesmen for whatever reason. A recent survey indicated that 24 percent of respondents would rather have a root canal than go through another car-buying negotiation. Internet sales allows customers to shop from the privacy of their own home without any pressure.

That being said, there will always be a role for the salesperson, Trujillo said. Johnson City Honda has 20 people on its staff.

“Even the ones that buy on the internet, when they come in, my business desk center turns them over to the salesperson,” Trujillo said. “The salesperson still plays a vital and important role. The cars are so technically advanced, you have to have someone who knows it. Some people come back to learn more about their car. You can’t comprehend it all in an hour.”

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