The internet is an amazing place. We can shop for gifts, order our groceries, and even buy cars and have them all delivered right to our doorstep. It’s amazing to think about really. You can go online, to sites like carvana.com or ozleasing.com, apply for a car, and have it delivered to your door. 

That’s really amazing, but how did the automotive industry take this turn? Well, it’s been happening for a while in the automotive industry, but you just haven’t been where it has been. Or, maybe you have been, and you don’t realize that the resource you have used online helped pave the way for Automotive’s adaptation to the internet. 

Resources and Guides

The early days of the internet saw very basic functionality, but as Web 2.0 rolled around, the accessibility of the internet skyrocketed. We start seeing publications like Consumer Report transitioning to online segments on top of their print segments, and it wasn’t long until we started to see more. 

Consumer Reports had really made automotive evaluation more or less “accessible online” and they had started a trend. Soon enough, you could start to check on the value of your cars or cars you wanted to buy on sites like Kelly Blue Book. Soon after we had the first-hand car reviews of Edmund’s, and these sites let this data be accessible to the public eye for free. Soon enough, there was less fluctuation throughout the used car market because there was an accessible benchmark beyond Jim at the used car lot. Now there were experts getting funds to make real-world tests, and develop algorithms to determine what your car was really worth. You had something you could show in response to a good car for a bad price. 

Parts Stores Shift Online

The parts stores down the corner always seemed to be able to get you the right part in a couple of days, but did they always do it for the right price? Not always. See, the automotive industry has a history of being looked at like crooks. Dealerships are known for overcharging. Small shops have the stigma that they will take you for a ride on repairs you don’t need. Oh, and don’t forget that awesome problem with rolling back odometers we stick on car lots selling used cheap cars. 

So when the internet started to blow up, a few parts stores took their chance at going online and investing in tons of marketing. You will know them as AutoZone, Advanced Auto Parts, O’Reily’s, and NAPA. These were the earlier adopters of the internet, and boy did their system work. You could order any part you need, and pick it up for free at your store in a few days. It meant there was a need for infrastructure everywhere, and that’s why you see at least one of these auto stores in every town. It also meant there was a benchmark. You could go online and check out the same part number at every site, and see which one had the best deal. Then you could order and go, saving you time and money in the long run. 

Auto Dealerships

It wasn’t long before dealerships figured out how they could leverage websites in their favor as well. All the major dealerships seemed to have a website, and they all seem to have similar functionality. You can view the dealership inventory, schedule an appointment, or find the number you need to call them. They all wanted to make direct contact. They all wanted to make sure they could talk to you. That was the best strategy for making a sale because they can attach a person and a face to the sale. 

Then the internet caught on to what the dealerships were starting to do, so they jumped in too. Suddenly you started to see cars going up for sales on sites like Cars.com and AutoTrader. There helping dealerships around the country share their inventory online in one place and securing referral fees as payouts. Now you could easily find people halfway across the country who were interested in your vehicle, and that made it even more accessible.

The Future of the Automotive Internet

The automotive world is still growing into the internet, and they are searching for new and inventive ways to utilize the power that it has. The amazing level of accessibility the internet can provide is what spawned the love for shopping online. Don’t get me wrong, brick and mortar stores are still the majority when it comes to overall sales, but the e-commerce segment has only seen growth year over year. It’s chipping away at the brick and mortar retail segment year over year, and that’s why we are seeing these adaptations. 

People want to skip going to most dealerships because they always walk away feeling like they might have been cheated. With those sites we talked about at the start, people now have the opportunity to find a car on their time without the pressure of a salesperson. They get to decide what they want, and then they can just apply and wait. These sites let people try cars for a time period, and they make sure the customer is happy. People like accessibility like that. 

So, what else is there? What can the automotive industry use the internet for next? The automotive industry seems to keep growing as a whole, and there really is no end in sight. These tools take us from A to B, build our cities and roadways, and they only seem to be getting more efficient. So, where do they go from here, and how do they adapt further with the internet? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

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Will Hopstetter

Will is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United Kingdom. He holds a diverse background in automotive and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.

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