DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles planned to roll out a digital retailing platform that allows the buying process to take place online late this summer.
But the coronavirus outbreak forced the automaker to hurriedly pull up the release date to the spring as millions of consumers suddenly became confined to their homes. A tool that was envisioned as a convenient perk before the pandemic suddenly became a necessity for shoppers who still need to buy vehicles during a disruptive crisis.
Even though FCA started running commercials on April 1 promoting "the ability to shop and buy from the safety of your home," only some of its dealers were ready for such a monumental shift.
Jeff Kommor, FCA's head of U.S. sales, told Automotive News on Tuesday, April 14, that almost 20 percent of dealers were on the platform and that he expects more than 30 percent to be by the end of the month.
Kommor, in an email, said FCA began a pilot of the online buying system during the fourth quarter of 2019 through Alfa Romeo brand and dealer websites "to collect information and make changes to improve consumer engagement and understand what was needed to improve the lead-to-sales close rates."
FCA's Online Retail Experience enables shoppers to handle vehicle trade-ins, apply for credit, receive price and payment estimates, and review service protection plan options before having a vehicle delivered to them. It was created by Carzato, a California-based software company.