Study on how the Internet is influencing automotive retail


48% of those surveyed would purchase a new vehicle online

Almost half (48%) of the 18 to 29 year olds, who participated in the survey, can imagine purchasing a new vehicle online in the future. This is the result of a research project, which MHP carried out together with the Nürtingen-Geislingen University (HfWU). The objective was to obtain substantiated information on the future importance of the Internet in automotive retail. For this purpose, a HfWU student group under the direction of Prof. Dr. Wolfram Sopha and Maximilian Beutel carried out an online survey with over 300 persons between the ages of 18 and 29 . "People from this age group are the new vehicle buyers of tomorrow. This is why their answers are so well suited to predicting future purchasing behaviour", says Maximilian Beutel.


Even though social media offers have, up to now, barely played a role, the Internet is becoming more and more important as a sales channel. Over 90% of prospective new vehicle buyers today already read up, in advance, about their options online. At the same time, a personal consultation remains extremely important for the vast majority. In contrast to other studies, the HfWU study has detected clear signs that the Internet will significantly increase in importance as a sales channel. In the survey, 48% of respondents could immediately imagine purchasing a new vehicle online. This figure increased, however, to almost three-quarters (72%) of those surveyed under certain prerequisites – e.g. being able to go for a test drive before purchasing. The small and mid-range vehicle classes are of particilar interest here.  Social media offers currently have, in contrast, a low influence here. While 85% of those surveyed used the various platforms intensively, only 7% indicated that they regularly followed articles/posts from manufacturers and dealerships on Facebook and co.

Peter Caracciolo, Associated Partner at MHP and responsible for Automotive Retail, sees a previously unforeseen potential for the entire automotive sector in new vehicles being purchased online. "It is, however, essential for the manufacturers and dealerships that they jointly design the sales channels, processes and platforms required for this purpose. It is only thus that the existing possibilities can be availed of before new market participants take to the field. The future of customer-oriented automotive retail lies in integrated multichannel sales. This consists of a useful mix of physical and digital customer services – from all the purchase processing phases to support and resale."

Prof. Dr. Wolfram Sopha endorses this appraisal: "The results of the study clearly show that the Internet - as an information and potential sales channel - must become a more central part of the overall business process design. Established brands are already coming up with ideas and concepts in this connection – as can be seen recently from BMW und Daimler. These approaches do not, however, go far enough."

Numerous organisational and conceptual questions still have to be answered: Which online services will increase customer satisfaction in the long term? How can a connection to the system world of the involved players lead to a simplified purchase process? Creating transparent processing steps and establishing trust between all the participants are essential, elementary components in this connection.

We are very satisfied with how the study went and the results . A further cooperation between MHP and the HfWU relating to innovations in automotive sales is already planned.

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