THERE is an online company whose very name strikes fear into every sales manager in the Mercedes-Benz network. Carwow. Not a day goes by without one customer or another telling the sales executive they have been on the Carwow website.
My previous dealership was one of the first of those to sign up to the website a couple of years ago, and their evolution since then is both impressive and terrifying in equal measure.
Their recent appearance during primetime television suggests that their website could soon become a staple part of conversation for all franchised dealers, in much the same way webuyanycar has become.
Intermediaries are nothing new. I have written many times that brokers feast upon our own inadequacies and ineptitude, but no third party website has entered the car buying consciousness of the general population as quickly as Carwow has managed.
Drivethedeal and Broadspeed used to promise users UK-supplied cars at heavily discounted prices, but as the dealers involved were never revealed until after the purchase, the average buyer was sceptical of their promise and their success was marginalised.
Carwow, however, have successfully harnessed the positive attributes of all price comparison websites. As soon as a customer registers, the world and his wife bombard the individual with offers for the model of their choice. You can immediately see who the dealers are, what they are offering and, invariably, the response takes no more than 15 minutes.
As a car shopper, how could you achieve this without spending hours visiting countless showrooms? What is
not to like?
At this moment in time they have a monopoly but no doubt there will soon be imitators and competitors.
You could even see them resorting to targeting the children of site users with cuddly toys (is there a marketing ploy more cynical?).
However, as I have written many times, I do not fear intermediaries and neither should you. Good insurance brokers are thriving. You will not see good hotels on laterooms.com.
Solid marketing strategies relating to all elements of the mix will always see you through.
James Litton is sales manager at Mercedes-Benz of Taunton. He always has something to say about the industry he loves.