PSA Group becomes first to launch online new car sales in France as digital channels grow

19 July 2017

19 July 2017

PSA Group (Peugeot Citroën) has become the first European OEM to launch French online car sales with its new Peugeot Webstore and Citroën Carstore apps. PSA says that consumer trends are shifting, with 90% of customers now starting the buying process on the internet and methods to purchase vehicles becoming ′increasingly multi-channel.’

It follows PSA launching its first e-commerce site for Citroën in emerging growth market Brazil in November 2016, where more than 200 orders have been carried out online so far. Peugeot launched its first e-commerce site in the United Kingdom in January 2017 and luxury group brand DS has made its DS7 Crossback website active in eight European countries since March 2017.

French online customers are also able to perform many other services online in addition to car purchases. They can also trade in their used car, finalise their order at the dealer, and run financing simulations. More services to be added by the end of this year include online applications for vehicle financing.

Head of PSA Group sales and marketing Stephen Norman said: ′The deployment of this offer is part of our Push to Pass plan which aims to put the customer at the heart of our strategy.

′The Group is meeting the customer’s expectations, after they have made their buying decision on the Internet, and anticipating the next step of complete vehicle purchase carried out online. So, it is an opportunity to bring in new customers, and for us to grow.’

Many internet-first millennials now expect to be able to purchase everything online – from groceries to houses, and for a long time now, cars have been the anomaly to this trend.

Other manufacturers are also increasing their online sales platforms, with BMW having launched theirs in the UK in 2015, and having brought it to Germany this year. However, the business still goes through its dealer network, and it has stressed it considers its dealer network invaluable and that ′direct sales is not our goal.’

Leasing companies have also got in on the action, with Sixt aiming to make online new car sales a core business area and for it to become ′the largest business segment of the group.’ Global online sales giant Amazon has also now entered the market.

There are also a growing array of players in the more established online used car sales space led by Auto Trader, including US car market website CarGurus launching in Germany last month, and a growing presence for CarsOnTheWeb, which buys cars from western Europe for customers mainly in central and eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, Lynk & Co, a brand of Chinese carmaker Geely which owns Volvo, is looking at an innovative subscription-based sales model. This allows its younger target audience to pay a monthly fee and swap out for a different car whenever they want. It also will let them share the car with friends and family or a broader user base in order to recover some of their subscription payment. Lynk & Co senior vice president Alain Visser summed this up by saying:  ‘We will most of all sell mobility.’

However, dealers have raised concerns that a serious upturn in online new car purchasing could hit them hard, with the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimating that one in five cars could be sold online in a decade in the UK – one of the most internet-friendly markets – with a resulting loss of 27,000 UK sales jobs, primarily in dealerships. They are also threatened by the potential for aggressive short-term online sales campaigns as the market heats up.