Although it is still a residual channel, car manufacturers want to control the sale of vehicles through the internet. The main affected will be the concessionaires, who will have to give up that formula still unexplored, according to the new distribution contracts that brands have made this year reach their points of sale. The offensive, initiated by Volkswagen Group, has generated criticism among sellers, who see a new twist to its structure after suffering the ravages of the crisis, when it closed one in ten dealerships. Now they fear losing turnover if the brands are fully committed to online marketing and critical information about their customers, who will also control brands.
A few weeks ago, as part of a meeting of the automotive sector that is organized every year by the IESE business school, the CEO of Volkswagen España Distribución, Francisco Pérez, was proud that the German consortium was the first to launch the new contracts in Spain. Grupo PSA has done the same with its brands (Peugeot, Citroën and Opel). Also Mercedes and BMW, among other manufacturers. Seat has negotiated the new bases, which its distributors must return signed before February.
In concessionaires, the new framework that will open from 2020 generates uncertainty: "We feel unprotected," says the owner of a dealer network that has had to assume the contract.
Sources of the concessionaires denounce, always from the anonymity, that the new contractual conditions will force them to maintain the same investments and, on the other hand, to renounce a part of their sales, which arrives online. Your participation, in the case of a sale on-line, it will be restricted to a part of the income for the delivery of the vehicle and, instead, they will be forced to provide the data of the buyers they contact, a critical information for them. Given the new scenario, the essential question is what will be the advance of the penetration of the channel on-line in the coming years and how this ends up affecting the accounts of the concessionaires' results.
"Their remuneration models will have to be adapted, but Volkswagen has a profitable model," said Pérez, who admitted that the process – Volkswagen forced dealers to return contracts signed in mid-November – has not convinced all its distributors: "Some dealers are considering moving the business to others," he admitted.
The new horizon of 2020 makes sense for Volkswagen, which by then plans to start the launch of its electric range. The brands want to take advantage of this new generation of vehicles to provide themselves with a new contractual framework with the dealers in which, in addition to arrogate the rights of sale over the Internet, the rules of the new technical and administrative requirements, such as updates, are also imposed. of vehicle programs or the management of batteries in electric vehicles. And, above all, the management of customer data privacy.
But it is also expected that the sales model will change and the new dealerships will not be so big because they will not have to have so many vehicles in sight. This change in sizing, accompanied by a reduction in price, could return concessionaires to city centers.
That is the perspective with which brands look at the future of the points of sale and where they have thought to modify their distribution contracts. But dealers fear that their role will be diluted while they have to maintain heavy cost structures. The incorporation of the electric vehicle causes, for example, a significant reduction in maintenance and, therefore, in the income from workshop work. None of the dealer owners consulted by this newspaper dares to calculate how much they could lose billing. But they think they should have some element of business guarantee.
In the sector they consider the new abusive contracts because a minimum number of sales will be fixed and, above all, of purchases to the brands. In addition, the margins of the concessionaires and discounts are not regulated, which will depend at all times on the needs set by the manufacturers.