Google is restructuring its car buying tools, and part of the process means shutting down its Google Cars shopping service. Launched a little more than a year ago with expectations that it would disrupt the auto sales industry, other early commentary noted that some dealers were already unhappy with the way the service worked and that Google Cars would need to overcome their issues in order to succeed. Rolled out in the San Francisco Bay Area, the service worked by showing local inventory in the area when you searched for a car at the Google.com page. Cars appeared above the traditional search results, and if you clicked on one you were taken to a page with more options and the ability to refine the search.
Dealers paid a fee for the lead if a buyer clicked to contact them and get a quote, that fee said to be a little higher than with traditional channels. But dealers didn't like the fact that all of the contact options were anonymous – a shopper got a disposable e-mail and phone number that was active only as long as the shopper responded; after six unreturned phone calls, for instance, the phone number would no longer be valid. That hampered dealers' follow-up opportunities.
The service actually shuttered at the end of January this year, but Google still has plenty of tools like surveys and mobile - it's just that none of them so overtly make the search giant a paid middleman between dealers and buyers. Search for a car on Google now, and you get an info box next to the results with information on the vehicle, but no options in that box will lead you to a dealer.