The Future of Automotive Retailing

The Future of Automotive Retailing

The many roads to the ultimate buying experience


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Imagine a business in which the top players invest billions to develop amazing new products, spend billions more on cutting-edge manufacturing capabilities and still more billions on sophisticated marketing—but never actually touch their consumers. And what if those consumers are deeply dissatisfied with how they are being served and crave a streamlined, easy-to use, transparent shopping experience that puts them in control?

This is the state of the U.S. auto retailing business today. And we all can agree that something has to change—and fast. The status quo is not working well for auto manufacturers. It is economically precarious for many dealers. And, most importantly, it turns customers off.

So, how can the auto industry delight the auto buyer of 2020 and beyond? A great deal has been written about how to reimagine car-buying as a purely e-commerce experience, with consumers researching, considering, comparing and completing purchases online. Voilà!

However, we think that’s way too simplistic. Future car shoppers will be online, offline and omnichannel. Some will fixate on price and will scour the internet for deals. Some will be impulse buyers, who want to walk into a dealer and drive out in a new car. Many shoppers will enjoy the convenience of researching and choosing online, but may never make a deal without a test drive. Some want the human touch all along the journey.

In other words, there is no single car buyer. And, therefore, no single car-buying experience will satisfy. Rather, there are countless unpredictable paths that a broad array of consumers can—and will—follow and countless ways in which they can be served.

The complexity is mind-boggling. But it is also clarifying: nobody can be all things to all consumers in the future automotive market. So automakers, dealers and the other players in the auto retailing ecosystem have a massive opportunity. But they must focus strategically on the type of car buyers they can serve and look for where in the customer journey they can excel—or where they should partner and collaborate.

In this paper we look at the changing needs and preferences of car buyers and how automakers and dealers and retail platform developers can address them. We look at how newcomers to the market like Tesla are opening the door to direct sales and how disruptors are targeting every part of the customer journey—including the innovators who are taking on the massive used-car market. We also look at the pivotal role that dealer platform companies can play.

As we said five years ago, when we wrote Me, my car, my life, it’s not just about mastering the new technologies—the winners in the automotive industry will be the companies that actually make life better for consumers. Today, we believe this even more strongly. And we see that recasting automotive retailing around consumer needs is a sure way to make lives better.

For more information, download the full report below.

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