Amazon primed for shoppers, not buyers
Third-party sites keep an eye on retailer's leap into autos
Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter is keeping an eye on the freshly launched Amazon Vehicles research portal, but he doesn't believe the service will be a direct competitor.
While Amazon Vehicles is a source for a lot of the same product information that third-party sites provide, it doesn't connect people to local dealerships. Users will still have to go elsewhere to find a store and buy a vehicle.
Vetter said the shopping phase in which people research vehicles online isn't a "winner-take-all" game for third-party sites. He admits that consumers will likely use multiple services to figure out what to buy and where to buy it.
With Amazon's move into vehicle research, shoppers have another hub for information.
"The research moves them up-funnel more and allows them to connect with consumers earlier," Vetter told Automotive News. "I could see this opening up some advertising opportunities for Amazon, but that also has never really been their focus, either. They've been much more focused on generating transactions and shipping products and services to people's homes."
Amazon Vehicles, launched last week, allows people to view vehicle detail pages and reviews of thousands of new and used cars. Consumers also can upload photos and videos of their own rides. Those who upload their vehicles can interact with the Amazon Vehicles community by answering questions about their cars, the online retail giant said.
Amazon's vehicle detail pages have sections titled "model changes," "model strengths" and "model value." The pages also include an extensive "model overview" that summarizes vehicle features.
Site users can compare a vehicle's trim levels side by side on the detail pages in neatly organized tables that outline price, performance, exterior and interior functions and other features.
"Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader remain the most trusted and visited car research and shopping websites, with nearly 36 million unique monthly visitors and reaching nearly three-quarters of all car shoppers," said Steve Lind, executive vice president of operations for Cox Automotive Media Solutions, in a statement to Automotive News. "No other resource drives more ready-to-buy consumers to dealers."
Amazon Vehicles is an extension of the company's Amazon Automotive store, which is a marketplace for parts that Amazon sells and ships, as well as used parts offered by others, just as Amazon.com does for nonautomotive products.
"Amazon has been in the advertising and automotive parts business for years," Vetter said. "I think this is just yet another way to extend their current aftermarket business and parts business and continue to grow there."
Amazon already has a few domains it could use for its research portal. Amazon purchased six automotive-themed domains in January, including Amazon.Cars, Amazon.Car and Amazon.Auto. At the moment, the domains send people to the Amazon Automotive parts hub.
Using the Amazon.Auto designation for Amazon Vehicles, for example, would not only be a branding play but could lead to increased search-engine traffic, said Mike Ambrose, COO of the XYZ registry, which operates the .Cars, .Car and .Auto domain extensions. The new automotive domains were first made available in December to companies registered in the Trademark Clearinghouse.
Ambrose said he wouldn't be surprised if the research site migrates to one of the new domains.
He said: "I can't predict the future, but we have seen big brands do it with these new automotive domain names in the past. They're shorter, they're more precise and they make sense."
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