IMI research shows that 52% of manufacturers believe it will be possible for consumers to purchase a vehicle via their web-site in the near future. By 2003 some 500,000 car purchase decisions will be made online in the UK alone (source: Fletcher Research).

Finally, it seems, the automotive industry is beginning to grasp the world of e-Commerce. Established players like Vauxhall and Fiat are enabling customers to carry out a complete vehicle purchase online and there is a proliferation of high profile internet start ups specifically geared to the car buyer.

However there is a great deal at stake for all concerned as the balance of power shifts towards the e-empowered consumer. No longer are they forced to visit a series of showrooms and choose a car in a high pressure sales environment. They are purchasing in a transparent, information rich environment, demanding better customer service and making informed purchase decisions in the comfort of their own home or office.

Successful sites like Oneswoop, Autobytel and are using the Internet to create radically different sales propositions. They are taking the hard sell out of the sales process by focusing on information, price, convenience and comprehensive information.

A popular response to the Internet evangelists is that the average consumer would not make a purchase of such high value without seeing and testing the product first. However last year over £2 billion was spent on online purchases in the UK alone. This amount will increase dramatically and as more customers become comfortable with online shopping so will they be happy to use e-Commerce to research vehicle purchases and complete transactions on line.

Many of the companies mentioned above will be discussing these issues at a two day conference held between the 30th and 31st March in London. Over 20 influential figures from some of the most high profile online automotive initiatives in Europe will be giving practical presentations focused on achieving competitive advantage and retail excellence on the Internet.

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