In my last post on the downside of car buying apps, I discussed their big shortcoming: no access to a truly competitive marketplace. I wished for a more Amazon-like experience. Little did I know that Amazon was about to move one step further into the automotive world. (Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon Prime member.)
On August 25th, Amazon announced the roll out of a new car-buying research feature called Amazon Vehicles. The vehicle information is not unique—you can find it at any number of car buying sites—but the display format caught my attention (see below). It’s arranged just like a typical Amazon product page, but without an Add to Cart button. It may have simply been a convenient (and well tested) design, but it does make one wonder.
I know of no Amazon plans to begin selling new cars, but this new offering did cause me to revisit the idea. In the introduction of my new e-book, I compared the ease of competitive shopping on Amazon to the typical hassle of obtaining a dealer’s best price. I stated that it’s unlikely that car dealers will ever participate in an online, competitive marketplace. But what if a company like Amazon finds a way to bypass dealers and work directly with automakers? It wouldn’t be completely unprecedented. Companies like TrueCar have worked to build direct relationships with automakers (incentive targeting, for example). Is it too far fetched to believe that, one day, some automaker will be enticed by the vast Amazon market potential?
Would Amazon Shoppers Buy New Cars?
Would I buy a car from Amazon? I buy a wide range of products on Amazon.com, from protein bars to computer equipment. I often use Amazon to research big ticket items like TVs and cameras, but I tend to purchase them in person. I’m sure it’s partially a generational thing—I prefer a first-hand look at the product—but I also fear the hassle of a delivery mishap.
I know the majority of car buyers (myself included) are not willing to buy a new car sight unseen, or without taking a test drive. It’s also very unlikely that Amazon will build physical showrooms. Car dealers certainly would resist show rooming for Amazon (and rightfully so).
But then I remembered another news item. Amazon just concluded a test drive pilot program with Hyundai called Prime Now, Drive Now. The program was conducted in Southern California and consisted of a free, 30 to 45 minute test drive of the new 2017 Hyundai Elantra. According to media reports, the program was a Hyundai publicity stunt, but you can be sure that Amazon strategists have their own agenda.
Visualizing Amazon Car Buying
One of the most popular aspects to shopping on Amazon (besides the great prices) is the largely unfiltered customer product reviews. Some products have thousands of reviews. While it’s true there’s plenty of useless or potentially misleading reviews, many are quite detailed and include supportive pictures and videos. Currently, cars on Amazon Vehicles don’t have many reviews, but I expect that will change quickly.
Imagine combining the typical Amazon buying experience (competitive pricing, detailed product information, unfiltered customer reviews) with an easy-to-access test drive? Make it 24 hours instead of 45 minutes (car dealers do it). Would that be enough to draw new-car buyers to Amazon? Perhaps.
Hyundai probably didn’t intend to help me visualize the possibility of buying a new car from Amazon, but that’s exactly what happened. I don’t expect we’ll see it any time soon, given the lobbying power of franchise car dealers. Change comes slowly in the auto industry. But consumers are a pretty powerful force as well, and there is certainly universal dislike for the typical car buying experience.
In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to checking Amazon reviews before I purchase my next new car!
Would you consider buying a car on Amazon? Have you had a chance to check out the Amazon Vehicles site? Did you find it useful? Comment below and let us know!