Kia UK boss: I’m not sure online car sales are here anytime soon – just look at Apple, Tesla and Cazoo for proof

Time 8:45 am, October 20, 2020

Kia won’t be offering a pure online car sales service anytime soon, the firm’s UK boss has said. 

Speaking exclusively to Car Dealer in this month’s magazine (which you can read for free here), Paul Philpott, Kia UK president and CEO, said that unlike rivals such as Peugeot and Hyundai, Kia wasn’t planning on offering a full end-to-end car sales facility because by doing so would undermine its dealer network.

‘We are not going to do anything that competes with our dealers being our primary route to market,’ said Philpott.

‘But at the same time we want to deliver the experience each individual customer wants and take them as far online as they want to.’

Kia is rolling out more online services for customers like live chat and the ability for dealers to conduct live video walkarounds with customers, but then the role of the dealer and the physical interaction comes into play.  

‘I think the best option for most customers is through the dealership, experiencing the physical environment and meeting the people,’ says Philpott.

‘So, when they have servicing needs in the future it’s not unfamiliar to them; you can’t get a car serviced online. I’m not sure pure online is with us any time soon.’

Philpott points to three examples of online retailers that still need physical locations to satisfy customers’ needs.

‘You only have to look at a few examples out there to understand that online and physical probably work best together, rather than substituting one for the other.

‘Firstly, an obvious example, Apple – their products are very easy to understand and yet they still have 38 physical stores across the UK. 

‘Secondly, Tesla. They were the great online seller but they now have 21 UK dealerships! And those are in high-cost locations so that’s a big overhead for them to take.

‘But one of the most interesting developments recently is Cazoo – that’s an online used car retailer buying Imperial Cars and 18 used car supermarkets.

‘What message does that say about pure online retailing for cars? That’s why I think we are in a very strong place in partnership with our dealers.’ 

Philpott uses his dealer network’s performance during lockdown as proof that physical and online can work together.

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‘In May, for instance, we had no dealers open – we don’t have a pure online sales process and yet we registered over 1,000 cars.

‘So dealers have processes to get cars to customers if they want to do it online, or over the phone or without a physical interaction, but I strongly believe an amalgamation of offline and online can deliver the best experience for most customers.’

You can read the full interview with Paul Philpott in Issue 152 here and watch it by playing the video at the top of this story

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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