ORLANDO -- Two software applications unveiled at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention last week could change the way trade-ins and new-car pricing are handled online.
Automotive Web sites took the car retailing process to the Internet years ago, but most still require interaction with a car salesman at some point. That could all change.
Car-valuation services have provided a range of prices for a customer's trade-in, sometimes reflecting a swing of several thousand dollars that required negotiating at the dealership.
And pricing a new car through the online "ask for quote" process still meant haggling with a salesman -- albeit by e-mail rather than in person.
But new Web applications from AutoTrader.com and Zag.com could enable a customer to trade in an old vehicle or purchase a new one without setting foot on the showroom floor.
AutoTrader.com launched highly detailed car evaluation software that provides a specific dollar value for a customer's old car -- a price that a dealer participating in the program must pay. The customer doesn't even have to buy a new car; he can just unload the old one. No haggling.
And Zag.com has created software that allows customers, while sitting at their computers, to configure a vehicle and instantly receive a guaranteed price that a participating dealer must honor. Again, no waiting for an Internet sales manager to respond.
AutoTrader's software, Trade-In Marketplace, allows a customer to walk into a dealership with a firm dollar value for a used car. A participating dealer must honor the price. In return, dealers gain access to the list of customers using the AutoTrader tool.
Trade-In Marketplace poses questions about the condition of the used car. But the process allows the consumer to gauge what a car is worth before going to a dealership. Other used-car estimators have a swing of several thousand dollars in a car's value.