Toyota is letting consumers browse dealers' certified used-vehicle inventories via the Internet.
Guillermo Hysaw, corporate manager of the used-vehicle operations department at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., said the company and its dealer associations have held 30-day cyber sales in different regions of the country within the past year. The sales were held to determine how well dealer association Web sites sell certified used vehicles.
Hysaw said results from the June 7 through July 6 sales in San Diego and Phoenix showed that 13.3 percent of all certified used-vehicle sales made by the dealers in those markets during the event could be attributed to the Web site.
Seven dealers in Phoenix and 10 in San Diego took part in the test. Other test areas were Maryland; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco.
Hysaw said he believes online selling will increase as more consumers become comfortable using the Internet. Toyota plans to support more Toyota dealer association Internet sales.
TARGET: 120,000 UNITS
Hysaw said Toyota expects its dealers to sell 120,000 certified used vehicles in 1999, up from 87,360 in 1998. He said he expected to reach 90,000 sales by the end of September.
Of Toyota's 1,195 dealers, 968 participate in the certified used-vehicle program.
Created in 1996, Toyota certification provides a used vehicle with a six-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and an optional comprehensive 100,000-mile service contract.
Vehicles undergo a 128-point certification inspection and are reconditioned before being certified. In June, Toyota extended the program to include 6-year-old vehicles with up to 65,000 miles.
Toyota began testing its used-vehicle certification program on the Internet in September 1998 with 206 dealers in Los Angeles, New York, its San Francisco region and the five-state area covered by the Central Atlantic Toyota region.
In February 1999, Internet used-vehicle sales became available to all Toyota certified dealers. Currently, 663 dealers use the Toyota site as part of their certified used-vehicle program.
Hysaw said that during a virtual sales event, the dealer association Web site is dominated by information about Toyota certified used vehicles and members' certified used-vehicle inventories. Also, the sale is heavily promoted on local radio and spot TV and in newspapers.
Traffic increased significantly for the Phoenix and San Diego Toyota dealer association Web sites during the tests, Hysaw said. Before the 'virtual sales event,' the San Diego dealer association Web site averaged about 90 hits a month. During the sales period the site received about 3,300 hits.
The Phoenix site averaged about 1,500 hits a month before the test; the site had more than 3,100 hits during the sale.
Consumers can be linked to their local dealer's certified inventory by logging onto www.toyotacertified. com or www.autotrader.com.
Participating dealerships list their certified used inventory with prices, mileage and description.
Consumers can schedule an appointment to see the vehicle by e-mail, fax or telephone.
'Through the Internet, Toyota is reaching those consumers that otherwise may not have heard about the Toyota Certified Used Vehicle program,' Hysaw said.
John Fern, controller at Camelback Toyota in Phoenix, said the used-vehicle staff was excited about the sale last summer.
He said his store usually sells 15 to 20 certified used cars and trucks a month; during the sale the store sold about 35 certified used vehicles.
While the Internet does not account for a big portion of his store's used-car business, he said, 'You need to be on it.'
'All of the dealers sold more (certified used vehicles) that month than any other month,' said Fern, whose store retailed 2,500 used and 4,000 new vehicles in 1998. 'The seven dealers had 200 cars on the Internet and most did sell.'
Hysaw said Toyota certified used vehicles are more profitable for dealers than noncertified used vehicles. The average gross profit on a Toyota certified used vehicle is $2,716, vs. $1,600 on a noncertified used vehicle.
'That's why dealers are migrating to the program,' he said.
Toyota is selling used vehicles on the Internet in an effort to keep up with the rapidly expanding pace of online commerce, Hysaw said.
Hysaw said that technology makes online comparison shopping easy, and that as consumers become more comfortable giving personal information such as Social Security and credit card numbers online, cyber shopping will continue to increase.