Consumer advocacy groups sometimes betray their mission.
For example, the Consumer Federation of America is touting a study concluding that online car buyers would save about $1,500 per vehicle if only auto manufacturers were allowed to retail vehicles directly to consumers on the Internet.
This study isn't doing consumers any favors.
If the federation wants to determine whether factory-direct sales would reduce vehicle prices online, it doesn't have to rely on theories. There are plenty of offline case studies.
Ford Motor Co. took retailing for a test drive in Tulsa, Okla. A few years ago Ford bought all the dealerships in Tulsa except a couple of holdouts. The company promised no-hassle sales and low vehicle prices.
What happened? The factory stores lost money and market share. The Ford dealers who refused to sell out gained market share - and so did the local Chevrolet dealers.
You don't get results like that by offering competitive prices.
In other dot-com news:
E-LOAN Inc., an online lender, and United Airlines have entered an agreement to provide the members of United's Mileage Plus frequent flyer club 3,500 miles for any auto loan financed through E-LOAN. E-LOAN originated more than $3.7 billion in consumer loans last year.
Autoweb.com Inc. has introduced AIC AutoGallery, an extensive library of automotive photos. The AutoGallery software allows shoppers to compare two vehicles side-by-side from any angle. The product is offered through Autoweb subsidiary Auto Information Center, which provides content and research software to automotive Web sites.
SupplySolution Inc., a software company serving automotive suppliers, and the Center for Automotive Research have launched a study to gauge whether suppliers and manufacturers have the technology to do a variety of business transactions online.
Staff Reporter Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or (540) 668-7295