Online transaction applications, self serve consumer desking tools, direct lender sourced credit applications and payment calculators, transparent product and price disclosures, linked information resources like Kelley Blue Book, market wide inventories posted online, limited personal communications replaced by video conference conversion tools that provide little time or need to develop relationships before, during and after the sale - and the list goes on.
All of these Internet based applications exist today with more robust versions already in beta versions and ongoing A-B tests with major dealer groups and OEM's. The human element is an assumed requirement in selling a vehicle based on consumer acceptance of the Internet as it was - and maybe as it is - but what about how it will be in the eyes of the next generation that is being weaned online with the expanded bandwidth that is allowing more functional applications!
OEM's have already tried to eliminate the dealer franchise system but they have been hampered by legislation and the retail auto industry lobbyists. Free standing service centers are already being sanctioned by Ford, Toyota and other OEM's playing in the background behind pilot programs. Parts on demand and "just in time" assembly lines tied to computerized dealer orders for new vehicles with more limited numbers of variations offered in vehicle configurations. Centralized inventory pools designed to limit floor plan costs for dealers who can't afford the carrying costs. Again, these situations all exist and are signs that they are being considered by OEM's vs. the status quo.
How long will it be before the efficiencies of the Internet and the reduced margins brought about by a weakened american economy will force a dynamic change in the role of the brick and mortar dealership vs. the virtual one?
That is the question - what is your answer/opinion?