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Amazon.com, that has reshaped commerce in many categories, has had an additional step into one of the most dreaded consumer experiences: car shopping.
The Seattle-based online shopping giant has long sold auto car parts and accessories. But Wednesday?saw the development of Amazon Vehicles, with a search tool for researching used and new vehicles.
Amazon’s new research features put it into territory occupied by “car finder” tools already available in variations on many automotive sites.?However, the move could be what one company insider referred to as “a trial balloon” to eventually establish a deeper foray into online car shopping.
What it could mean
Edmunds.com, TrueCars and Kelley Blue Book are some of the main resources consumers currently use to analyze cars and get pricing quotes from dealers. If Amazon were to establish links to local dealers, which might?be a logical next thing, it could become?a formidable competitor. By more aggressively selling auto parts and accessories, it could?cut into an industry covered with eBayMotors.
“I check this out as a way for Amazon to put their foot in the door from the car market and perhaps in the future become a lead generator for dealers,” said Oren Weintraub, president of Los Angeles-based car buying service AuthorityAuto.com, and himself a former car dealership. “There are many facets to some good car deal, including negotiating a great price for that car and trade-in, leasing and financing rates, and all sorts of back-end products dealers sell.”
Amazon’s new site displays owner star ratings and reviews. Additionally, it allows car shoppers to pose inquiries to drivers, an effective feature the organization has utilized in selling other products.?While the information is useful to car buyers, a couple of things are?noticeably absent: pricing information and access to auto financing. Amazon displays the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, however the actual sales price found on dealership lots isn’t provided.
Evolution of car buying online
The internet has vastly changed the shopping process for many products – although not?automobiles. Car dealerships will have?internet departments?through which?pricing and negotiating can be handled via phone, email or text, however, many individuals are unprepared for the negotiating process needed to obtain the best price for any used or new car. And upstarts for example CarGurus, Beepi and Vroom are attempting to disrupt the auto-buying process by moving the whole transaction online.
Amazon’s new product offering is much more modest for the time being. “Finding cars on Amazon Vehicles is straightforward -?just search like you would any other product,” reads the company’s press?release. Amazon’s tool allows shoppers to filter their search based on needs for example features, options, size and fuel economy. Answers are displayed within the familiar format the website ways to use selling other products.
Another sign that Amazon is getting into the auto market is its announcement this month of a very limited pilot program that gives test drives for the Hyundai Elantra compact sedan. A scheduled appointment can be scheduled with the Amazon Prime shopping service.
Amazon couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about its long-term plans for its?new vehicles site.
Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].