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Click here: Online Smart city car sales may one day extend to Mercedes-badged products.

Smart brand travels from the showroom to driveway with the click of a button.

Smart logo18 Jun 2013

By BARRY PARK

MERCEDES-BENZ buyers may soon have access to a new three-pointed star car delivered to their driveway – all via the click of a button.

The German luxury car brand this week revealed it is trialling an online shopping portal via its Smart city car brand, with feedback from the experiment feeding back into a program that could see the service rolled out to Benz-badged models.

Buyers can visit the Smart website at www.buysmartnow.com.au, and use a credit card to pay as little as $19,990 before on-road costs for the two-seater coupe. Four have already been sold via a post on Smart’s Facebook page announcing the online buying service.

Mercedes-Benz Australia senior manager of corporate communications David McCarthy said the car-maker decided to trial a virtual car showroom after watching Subaru’s experiment with the BRZ sportscar, which customers could order online.

“It (what Subaru did online with the BRZ) wasn’t the complete purchase,” Mr McCarthy said. “We saw what they were doing, and looked at it with great interest.” Mr McCarthy said Smart was ideally suited to helping the German car brand dip “a couple of toes” into online retailing.

“People who buy a Smart know exactly what they want,” he said. “While there is a choice of vehicles (Smart sells four models in Australia), if they’ve already made a decision to buy a Smart, this makes it a lot easier for them.” He said depending on the customer, a dealer could even deliver the car to a buyer’s driveway, although it would help if they came into a dealership so the car’s functions could be explained to them.

“People are time poor, so for them (buying online) is an easy transaction,” Mr McCarthy said. “For us, we wanted t test the platform – we’ve been working on it for a very long time.” The website is the result of more than 12 months of work for Mercedes-Benz.

“I’ve watched the process, and we’ve tested it and it works fine. I wouldn’t call it absolute dam-busting, but we’re pretty excited with it and happy with the take-up so far,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said one of the outcomes it would watch closely was if the Smart’s online experiment could extend to models in the Mercedes-Benz line-up.

“One of the things we wanted to do is see how it works. In terms of the development of the platform the legal issues ... that has taken a lot of time to get it right.

“So who knows what opportunities it might present in the future?” Mr McCarthy said owners would have to have an identity check before taking possession of a car bought online.

“Showrooming as we know it, where people go and look at an item and then buy it online, that has been a big feature of how retail has been changing,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said Smart’s move to online retailing was not the beginning of the end for new-car showrooms.

“You have to be able to deliver the car, you have to be able to service it. Smarts don’t take up a lot of space in the showroom.”

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