Internet auto sales coup for German mail order company

Fuerth, Germany. More than 5.5 million customers tried to buy a Smart Cabrio for less than 2,000 euros when the German mail order company Quelle made the offer over the Internet. Only 50 succeeded.

"We've never had a product that received so many orders. That's a record for us," said Quelle spokesman Manfred Gawlas.

Quelle caused a storm in Germany in May when it announced a joint venture to sell cars over the Internet with Carplus, a distributor based in Bayreuth. The company offered 50 Smart models for a discounted price of 1,990 euros.

Automakers and dealer organizations condemned the move, which sparked a media frenzy in German newspapers. Gawlas said the publicity was a massive boost for Quelle that they would never have gotten through paid advertising.

Quelle hit the headlines once more when the company announced it would sell the new VW Golf over the Internet with a 10 percent discount off the list price. Volkswagen criticized the offer and threatened legal action.

Despire automakers' opposition, Quelle and Carplus have grown into a sizable, independent car sales operation.

More than 500 new Ford, VW, Opel, Smart and Nissan models have been sold, says Carplus boss Heiko Eich. Some are imported from neighboring countries and sold for up to 20 percent below the manufacturer's list price.

Quelle and Carplus plan to sell 1,500 new cars during 2004. By 2005 the two partners hope to be selling 300-400 cars a month. These will be sold through Quelle's website or auctioned on Ebay.

Quelle also became the first German mail order company to publish an auto catalog, part of its ambition to be the market leader in direct auto sales.

Tags: Retail

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