Rolling on the river

Online retail giant Amazon is now publicly gearing up to sell vehicles via its website, using the UK market as a guinea pig prior to rolling out operations across the continent.

It bagged many a headline last week, and rightly so, as the company has a history of upending markets and it is already said to be recruiting automotive sales staff. However, the move shouldn’t come as that big a surprise.

We, and others, have reported on Amazon’s designs on the car market for years, and it has dipped its toe in the water on several occasions. It sold a series of Fiats at heavily discounted rates via its Italian website in 2016 and has also sold Seats in France and Minis in India.

If it achieves its goal of successfully selling vehicles online – probably for less money than everyone else – then that is obviously a big threat to traditional dealers. It wouldn’t be the first consumer retail heavyweight to try its hand, though; the mighty Tesco tried, and failed, to sell cars online during 2011 and 2012, and although it wasn’t a household name, Autoquake’s ‘cut out the middleman’ used car business wound up in 2011.  

We will continue to keep you informed, as this isn’t something retailers should brush off, but selling cars purely online isn’t as straightforward as it looks. Trade-ins, servicing, parts, repairs – none of this physical stuff slots easily into the online sales model, and if anything, Amazon’s move raises more questions than it answers.  

Jack Carfrae

Acting editor

Auto Retail Agenda

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