Autoweb.com will soon offer Internet shoppers the option to buy new vehicles without contacting a dealer.
On Aug. 30, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based online buying service begins testing a new sales process in which it handles all customer contact during the car transaction.
Autoweb.com's surveys of both customers and dealers show there is demand for a process that excludes the dealer and allows Autoweb.com to act as a buyer's agent.
'Some dealers want us to handle the transaction,' said Dean DeBiase, CEO of Autoweb.com, which has 5,000 dealer customers. 'A sale is a sale.'
The new 'direct-to-consumer' process will not replace the old one. It will be offered to consumers as an option.
Currently, Autoweb.com sends dealers prospects who ask for a price quote on the company's Web site. Dealers pay $30 per lead, offer a no-haggle price and are responsible for customer follow-up once they receive the referral.
Under the multistate test program, a dealer supplies the vehicle and makes a profit on the transaction. Dealers still pay for the lead, and the process is free to consumers. Autoweb.com would not disclose details on dealer fees because the program is in the test phase.
The company also will test nonnegotiable pricing and prices that give the customer more input.
'It will still be no-haggle,' said DeBiase.
Autoweb.com will offer a variety of vehicle delivery options, including letting the customer pick up the vehicle at the dealership to complete the transaction; having dealership employees deliver the vehicle to the customer's home or office; or having Autoweb.com employees deliver the vehicle to the customer.