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Online sales a disconnect for Skoda

Buffering: Skoda Australia is not planning to sell cars online, even though its smaller size and customer base would lend itself well to the process.

Internet transactions for Skodas not on the table, despite its tech savvy customers

Skoda logo7 Sep 2016

By TIM ROBSON

SKODA Australia prides itself on having a customer group that are among the cleverest, most educated and widely read in the car market, but the brand will not be selling its cars via the internet any time soon.

Speaking with journalists at the launch of the company’s new Fabia Monte Carlo in Sydney, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said that the dealership connection is still vitally important, and that internet sales were not a priority.

“I personally believe that the dealership – that physical place to go to and have someone to talk to – is important,” he said.

“This is such an expensive purchase in your life it’s the second most expensive thing you buy after the house, and you just don’t want to buy it off the internet and end up in the anonymity of an internet shop.” Skoda is in the midst of a worldwide revamp of its entire dealership network which includes its 34 dealers in Australia, with a renewed focus on aftersales service and front-of-house expertise.

Mr Irmer said this was part of the reason that pure online sales were not necessarily the answer, even for a smaller brand like Skoda.

“You need to have somewhere to go with the car,” he said. “If you have a problem you want to go somewhere, and that relationship with the dealer comes into play.” Other car-makers are moving into the digital space, with Hyundai opening its first digital car dealership in Spain in June. Volvo, meanwhile, sold the first batch of its new XC90 SUVs in less than a day via an online portal.

In Australia, Subaru sells the BRZ and the WRX STi via its local website, as well as through its dealerships.

Mr Irmer said he does not dismiss the notion out of hand, but believes that the face-to-face relationship is an important element of the purchase procedure, especially with customers updating after a number of years to a new vehicle with updated technologies.

“I don’t want to say it’s never going to happen, but when someone buys a vehicle today, the technology that their old car has, versus what their new car has… it is like chalk and cheese,” he said. “It requires an explanation. Car buyers are not all automotive experts.” Mr Irmer noted that one of the Volkswagen Group brands had “experimented” with online sales in Europe in 2015, but did not offer details.

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