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Back in the 90s, many automakers tried to cut dealerships out of the business equation by selling cars online, but OEMs found out that selling vehicles wasn't as easy as it looked. Since then, automakers have stuck to supporting its dealers on the web, and Saturn plans to take online shopping to the next level. Ten Saturn dealers are participating in a pilot that will give customers the ability to spend less time inside the dealership by using the Internet to apply for credit, schedule a test drive, settle on a price, and more.

The move makes sense for Saturn since it prides itself on its customer-friendly nature, and doing more without leaving the house or office leads to shorter dealer visits and faster transactions. One function of any sale that will difficult to do online is the valuation of the trade-in, but dealers will be able to give a ball-park figure based on make, model, mileage, and the description of the customer. If the pilot goes well, we're guessing other GM makes and the competition will start putting more of the car-buying process online. We're wondering why it took this long to get to this point in the first place.


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  • 9 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bought my 07 Infiniti G35S that way. I already knew what I wanted, so I didn't need to set up a test drive. So I found the car I wanted, negotiated the price, the offer for BOTH trade ins (Focus and 350Z), and applied for financing all via email. I knew all the numbers, payment, rate, etc. and when I showed up I just signed the papers. It was a bit of trust on the salesperson's part that I wouldn't show up with 2 different trade ins than I had promised but they reserved the right to cancel the deal if that had happened. I was In and out in 20 minutes, best car buying experience ever.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Regarding trade-in...

      Use the CarMax model: Assign a value to the car based on condition, mileage, etc., and allow the option of selling the trade-in car to the dealership for cash at that price, independent of a new car sale.

      With one step, you've gotten rid of the shenanigans that go on with new car pricing and trade-in deals. Everyone would be able to see exactly what each portion of the transaction entails.

      Of course, it won't happen - because dealerships usually benefit by hiding transaction details in the mound of trade-in and financing paperwork.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nice of them to come into the current century.

        I bought a 2000 Miata off the web. Did my financing, selected color and options, and arranged for a test drive - back in 2000.

        Saturn is having a problem selling cars because while GM took them upscale in price their old time customers didn't follow. I know many "previous" owners who think the new ones are too expensive.

        I guess anything to get people to look.
      • 6 Years Ago
      the one thing i've always hated about buying a new car was the process.

      so the last 3 cars i have bought/leased, i did all credit apps and price haggling over email. when i walked into the dealership, the car was washed and ready to go and i was out the door with my new car in less than 30 minutes. now i do not dread going to the dealer to face the "what can i do to put you in this car today..." and "four square" nonsense.

      there is no other way i would ever get a new car. bravo to saturn for (again) making car buying easy and simple.

      Rethink... Wasting Time at the Dealership sitting in the F&I office.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why would anyone buy a car at a "dealership"? Do people buy laptop computers at "dealerships"?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't get it. This "new" program is supposed to help cut down on the time customers need to spend at a Saturn dealership working out details like "applying for credit, and settling on the selling price". If you don't have your financing lined up BEFORE you get to a dealer (through a/your bank or credit union) how can you be sure of what kind of car you can afford? Has Saturn completely ditched the "one set price/no haggling" policy that they started with?

      From buying cars every few years, I've noticed the 2 biggest time wasters are 1.) negotiating the price...particularly of the trade-in. And 2.) waiting on the paperwork to be assembled and filled out and double-checked for accuracy. Unfortunately, contracts to purchase cars are getting longer/more complicated every day.
      • 6 Years Ago
      As an internet manager at a Honda dealer, I already give out all the information about trade, prices etc... I don't understand what the big deal is about this new programs.

      Very seldom does a customer performs the whole transaction over the internet. Most customers use it for intial contact, pricing and appointments.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Saturn needs more dealers and many former ones have closed.

      In the San Francisco area ("West Bay") the Saturn dealers in both Marin County and Burlingame have closed and only the Colma store remains.

      In the Palm Springs area, the Saturn dealer in Cathedral City shut down late last year and I don't know where locals go for dealer service--maybe many miles away closer to L.A.

      Saturn has an attractive and complete line of cars but most people aren't aware of that. Too bad!
      • 6 Years Ago
      alas, 50 different state laws re. OEM car distribution.

      car dealers will fight tooth/nail....and will probably win as they are among the most powerful lobbies at the state level.