BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Michigan — Penske Automotive Group has begun to pilot an online sales program that will allow consumers to shop and begin the vehicle purchase process digitally.
Called Preferred Purchase, the program kicked off last week at Audi Tysons Corner in Vienna, Virginia, and is being rolled out on the Web sites of 11 of Penske's 244 dealerships, five in Florida and six in the Washington, D.C., area.
Altogether, Penske dealers represent more than 40 brands in 20 U.S. states.
Tony Pordon, Penske's executive vice president of investor relations and corporate business development, told Edmunds: "Preferred Purchase focuses on letting the customer perform as much of the transaction online as possible. We believe it will make for an easier transaction and transparency by allowing customers to choose exactly how they want to purchase a vehicle."
To make use of new service, shoppers begin by going to a dealer's Web site and locating the car of their choice, along with the advertised price.
Clicking the Preferred Purchase icon then brings up a menu that will allow customers to choose from such digital selections as loan pre-approval, payment options and a trade-in value estimator.
Or, if they prefer to jump directly to a human, they can opt to begin a virtual chat with a salesperson or be connected by phone.
Either way, in order to complete the transaction the customer will still need to physically sign various documents, arrange insurance and have their trade-in evaluated in person.
Pordon said the idea for Preferred Purchase "originated within Penske Automotive Group as we looked for a way to expand and enhance our digital offering. Our customers provided a lot of feedback about the options and functionality that they would like to see. We beta-tested Preferred Purchase internally, spending about eight months on the process to gather feedback and develop exactly what we wanted to do. We expect to continually revise the process based on customer feedback and will offer enhancements to the process down the line."
Pordon noted that there is no set timetable for the pilot and said that Penske is not yet disclosing which areas of the country will be next in line to get Preferred Purchase.
Online car shopping has become a routine part of buying a new vehicle for large numbers of consumers. According to a Google study, 83 percent of consumers visit a dealership Web site when looking for a new car and 81 percent consult a manufacturer site.
As a result, dealers and automakers have responded by expanding their online presence and including more information on their sites, making it easier for shoppers to locate a vehicle that suits their needs, compare vehicles and ultimately make a purchase.
For example, as previously reported by Edmunds, General Motors rolled out its Shop Click Drive program some time ago. Available at Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC dealer Web sites, it allows consumers to estimated pricing, review incentives, research and choose financing and insurance, estimate their trade-in and apply for financing.
As always, Edmunds.com can help you quickly locate a dealership in your area.
Edmunds says: Penske Automotive Group's Preferred Purchase helps car shoppers complete more of the buying process from the comfort of their own homes.