To the Editor:
At Foresight Research, we believe AutoNation is making a gutsy move by building a digital storefront for new-auto purchasers ("The retail game is about to change," Nov. 17).
Our 2014 Dealership Immersion Report provides insights and diagnostics about dealership purchase influence and purchase experience among new-auto buyers. It shows that just 11 percent of new-auto buyers agree that "it is not essential for me to see, touch or sit in the vehicle before I buy it," and only 14 percent "would prefer online price negotiation." Notably, those measures shift considerably toward digital among 18- to 34-year-olds.
No wonder: There has never really been a viable way to buy online from most dealerships, so it is hard for people to imagine how it could work -- and work effectively. The AutoNation approach may change that.
AutoNation's stated goals are to cut transaction time and improve customer satisfaction. In all, 20 percent of new-auto buyers feel like they spend too much time at the dealership. But it is much higher for those under 55, particularly the 18- to 34-year-olds. We see the same thing for overall consumer satisfaction with dealers. So while the current, older buyers are OK with dealer time spent and the overall dealer experience, the up-and-coming buyer groups are less so, and the process will need to offer options to accommodate them.
AutoNation may well be ahead of the curve or spot-on -- only time will tell.
Rochester Hills, Mich.