The state of car buying in America is still antiquated, and you still have to head to the dealership to do just about everything from test driving, the pain of negotiation, and then the slog of paperwork, as well as the brutal rigors of the Finance & Insurance department that makes you go through some freakin' three-ring binder of products and services you don't want to buy but feel pressured to do so. Porsche wants to change all that by launching a pilot program that handles almost everything online for both new and used cars.
The fact that the car buying process hasn't changed with the times (when you can pretty much buy anything online these days) is a difficult reality to still have to live with. But there are dealer franchise laws that present hurdles for change, so it's not as easy as just having manufacturers just go ahead and do their own thing.
The new program is initially a pilot program via 25 of Porsche's 191 American dealerships. It's a test to see if the program works, and it could roll out nationally. Here's what the program looks like.
- Customers can view dealer inventory, prices, and specifications on their computer, without the need to visit the dealership at this stage.
- Interested buyers can get approved for financing and insurance through Porsche Financial Services, all online.
- Once a customer selects the vehicle he/she wants, the dealership can start the process.
- Customers can get trade-in values for their current vehicle by uploading photos.
- Buyers can then upload their personal documents and identification. At this point, the Porsche dealership can proceed with approval and then prepare paperwork for final signatures in person at the dealership before vehicle pickup.
What the program effectively does is remove the need to visit the dealership except to pick up the car, unless they want to test drive the vehicle first. Everything else can be done from the convenience of your computer at home or at work, and the process saves time and headache. Of course, if you're a weirdo and love to haggle in person, that's your choice.
Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, stated:
“For our dealerships, who are at the core of our strategic initiatives, we think this blend of digital and physical interaction with customers will only strengthen their business,”
Porsche isn't the first manufacturer to try some form of online car buying and online transaction. Hyundai and Volvo have similar programs, but the Porsche pilot program appears the most comprehensive in nature. It's not direct buy like Tesla, where the customer can visit a Tesla store, configure, buy, and order direct from Tesla, but it's a step in the right direction.
Conventional dealerships are privately owned by franchisees, and there are laws in place to keep dealerships in the loop of the car buying process, so they can't simply be cut out of existing arrangements. But the online process may actually work better for many car dealers and bring in additional buyers who might otherwise be turned off by the old process of going to the dealership in person to do everything.