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Google Cars: “It’s Time To Switch Gears”

Google Cars

That’s right “Google Cars”. No I am not talking about the self-driving cars that Google has at their headquarters.  I am talking about the online car-shopping platform that Google has been testing for nearly a year now in the San Francisco Bay area.  Google Cars gives consumers the ability to browse dealer’s inventory, check listing prices, send direct emails, calls, and view dealer locations without leaving the Google Cars platform.  Google Cars is now planning its strategy on expanding the platform to automotive dealers and MORE importantly, to consumers for the entire state of California.  With this announcement, Google clearly is sounding the alarm in an effort to attack other car shopping sites such as Cars.com and Autotrader.com.

Dealers have the ability to list their new vehicle inventory with no up-front monthly fees/charges.  Dealers pay only for leads based on a bidding system that starts roughly at $15, with higher bids receiving higher placement, similar to Google PPC advertising.

Google Cars

With all of this being said, what type of feedback has there been from the pilot program thus far?  Currently, the platform has been met with mixed reviews by dealership general managers.  They say that Google shoppers can call anonymously which limits the number of times a dealer can follow up with a potential lead.

How does the inquiry process work?  When someone submits their information to the dealership, the dealer receives the customer’s first name and an anonymous phone number and email address created by Google that the dealer can use to follow-up with the potential consumer.  The phone number forwards the call to the consumer’s phone and expires after six incoming calls regardless if the customer answers or not.  The email uses the same principal; it too will expire after six unanswered emails.  Google is doing this in an effort to protect the potential customer’s privacy.  The dealer is given 12 opportunities to make contact with the consumer.  I would say that Google is giving the dealers a fair number of opportunities to get in contact with the consumer.

Dealership Owners and General Managers need to take note and understand that Google Cars is/was designed for the consumer first, and the dealer second.  Google Cars offers the consumer a much more user-friendly, less obtrusive format for shopping cars than Cars.com or Autotrader.com and frankly, on most dealerships websites.  With its minimalistic approach and less steps to get to the quality information that the consumer is looking for, Google Cars will lead to a higher satisfaction rate and user experience for potential consumers.

Yes, dealers are a little skeptical about the number of opportunities that Google Cars gives them to connect with the consumer.  It is my opinion that this was done for a reason. It tells the dealerships that they are going to have to “switch gears” and change the way they conduct their sales process, using a more consumer friendly model.  Google has the behavioral data to understand the search patterns of potential car buyers.  Take note, they are telling dealers that if you cannot get direct contact with the consumer within 12 opportunities, then you should back off.  In this way, they are essentially protecting your business and your dealership’s brand.

This platform is good news for all involved.  Consumers should be excited about the new ease of car shopping and dealerships should embrace this new outlet to market their vehicles.  Meanwhile, Cars.com and Autotrader.com should be prepared to get in the back seat.