Penske Automotive Group launched a pilot this month of its online sales program that will allow consumers to shop and initiate the vehicle purchase process digitally.
Called Preferred Purchase, the program kicked off last week at Audi Tysons Corner in Vienna, Virginia, and is being rolled out on the Web sites of 11 of Penske’s 244 dealerships, five in Florida and six in the Washington, D.C., area.
Preferred Purchase enables customers to handle most of a transaction online, which trims the time spent in a store, said Michael Kabcenell, Penske’s director of strategic initiatives and business development. It also improves pricing transparency by allowing a customer to research vehicles, start a purchase or complete most of the purchase from home.
“We want to give customers the process they want,” said Terri Mulcahey, Penske’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, as quoted in the Automotive News. With Preferred Purchase, customers do not have to give contact or personal financial information to get detailed pricing information.
According to reports, the program is based on customer feedback, including that from a centralized customer relationship management system it launched a year ago. Some customers said they would like to buy their cars online, some wanted integrated chat, some just want more options but still come into the dealership to finalize the transaction.
Penske’s Preferred Purchase, which links a dealership to the sort of online options available from third-party shopping sites, is the latest in online sales programs being developed by large dealership groups. Penske worked with various vendors to develop the software, and tested it for eight months and will monitor the pilot for an undetermined period before deciding whether to expand it.
How do you think Penske’s pilot will fan out? Or better yet, what do you think it will turn out? Clearly this is an necessary step towards the direction that the vehicle purchase process that the elite auto groups are able to trail blaze.