Consumer Reports Online is telling readers the Web is no place to buy a car. The gist of the magazine's report, based on feedback from mystery shoppers, is that dealers are playing the same games they did before the Internet became popular.
Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, told 1,056 shoppers to ask for quotes on six different vehicles using five online referral services: Autobytel.com, AutoVantage, Autoweb.com, Cars.com and CarPoint. The dealerships had to be within 100 miles of the shoppers and had to e-mail or phone them with a price quote within two business days.
At least one in five dealers refused to quote a price unless the shopper visited the dealership. When they did quote a price, it was not always for the vehicle specified. Only 35 percent of shoppers received a quote within the 48-hour limit.
A recent survey sponsored by CarMax, a group of used-car superstores and new-car dealerships that offers no-haggle pricing, reached similar conclusions about slow response times and lack of online prices. The CarMax research also concluded that some dealers who did give a price online changed it once customers arrived at the store.
In other dot-com news:
Manheim Auctions Inc. consolidated its Internet assets and Tracker dealer management software into one entity, Manheim Interactive Inc. Manheim Interactive will introduce services allowing dealers to buy vehicles directly from lease turn-in yards and other dealers' lots. The president and CEO will be Hal Logan, former marketing executive for Manheim Auctions.
AutoNation Inc. predicts its Internet-related vehicle sales will reach $1.5 billion this year, up from $1 billion last year. The chain's site, AutoNationDirect.com, also has some new features. Consumers can record vehicle preferences and e-mail them to the closest AutoNation dealer. They also can search AutoNation's new-vehicle inventory, including vehicles en route from the factories.
Buying service Auto- web.com has introduced an online auction allowing consumers to bid on new vehicles on its Web site.
Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or at (540) 668-7295