Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 update – Subaru allowing online sales only

The Toyota 86 has been available in Australia for a little over a month now. I’ve even seen a few of them on the streets here in Slow-bart, which is something. Sales of the Subaru BRZ, however, got underway today and Subaru has elected to sell them online.

That’s online-only.

You can’t walk into a dealership and place and order. The dealer will gladly offer you a comfortable seat and a coffee, but most likely that would only be so that you could use his/her computer to order it online (and probably only if you promise to nominate them as the preferred delivery dealership).

Whilst Toyota went for a two-pronged model line around $30K and $35K plus ORC, Subaru has limited its range to one model only, selling at $37,150 driveaway (with 3 years service).

Subaru have just 201 BRZ’s to sell in Australia this year and 50 of them were sold within the first 90 minutes of their sales site going online today. It might have been more if the site could have handled the spike in traffic, but it crashed soon after going live and the ‘buy’ button wouldn’t appear.

Source: Drive.

UPDATE: Apparently all 201 sold within three hours. On Day 1.

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I’m very, very excited by the experiment from Subaru and I bet a lot of other manufacturers are watching as well.

Why?

From my own perspective, online sales was an idea that I was developing in my own head when I started working at Saab last year. In my mind, people could still go to a dealership to view or test drive a car, but they would then have the option of buying it online and like Subaru, nominating a dealer of choice for delivery and service.

I’m not sure how this would work in a mixed setting, with both dealer and online sales. It would most likely have to be part of a fixed price sales model, something that might not go down so well in some markets.

Buyers could still buy a car off the lot straight away if their desired configuration was on site. Haggling would be between the customer and the dealer as the dealer would have already bought the car from the factory (as they do now).

Some people don’t like the pressured environment involved with some sales experiences. I’m sure they’d be open to being able to configure, select and buy their car completely online, dealing only with the salesman at pickup time.

From the manufacturer’s perspective, this could be an interesting addition to the sales funnel that might mean greater margins for them and a new dealership model for the future. There are a lot of thins you can buy online today. Why not cars as well?

Subaru seem to have tripped with the infrastructure around the process on the first day, but hopefully they’ll get the resources sorted quickly and it’ll be interesting to see the feedback they receive.

Online sales for motor cars. Would you be into it?

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Speaking of the Toyobaru twins, here’s an absolutely sensational road test video of the Toyota GT86 in its European configuration. What makes this video so good isn’t limited to the photography, the roads and the facts you learn along the way. This video is extra-interesting because the guy testing the car currently owns a Toyota AE86 as a weekend trackday car. For him, this is personal.

It’s 20 minutes long, so make sure you’ve got some time to spare. I think you’ll enjoy it, however.

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11 Comments

  1. Any kind of fixed price market would appeal to me as there is little I hate more than the haggling and bull5h1t surrounding car buying.

  2. On one level, new car dealers should LOVE this sort of system. Where do new car dealers lose money? Selling new cars. New car sales only exist to garner trades for used car sales (profitable), creating service department customers (profitable) and service work means parts sales (profitable).

    Disposal of one’s previous car, normally traded in at a dealer, might be the only aspect of this new design which requires some reinvention. The interesting thing is that while customers will avoid the whole mess of haggling and investigating dealer-cost and all that nonsense, and while most will purport to be happy with this, in the end the customer will pay more as there will be but one place to buy your new car, and we know what a monopoly does to pricing.

    Interesting.

    1. Speaking as somebody subjected to the Australian car market, the idea of cars getting more expensive is particularly painful given the extent to which we are gouged currently. It’s a disgrace.

  3. In the US they wouldn’t be able to do it because of all the anti-compete laws the dealers have put in place (that’s why it took GM going into bankruptcy before it could consolidate all the dealers down to a more reasonable number).

  4. The only place you can find them in South Florida is on the streets. Dealerships are completely sold out, and there is currently a 2-3 month wait. My friend wants to trade in his Honda S2000 for either a BRZ or Scion FR, he’s going to wait it out until they become more readily available.

    It goes without saying that there is

    1. …hit return too soon…

      no discounts or incentives available whatsoever. I’d rather wait until a TRD or STi version comes out.

      BTW – I’m sleeping with the devil.

  5. A friend of a friend runs a very small Fiat dealership in Italy. He runs things essentially in the same manner, minus the online part.
    The dealership is essentially a service garage, with a small office. Customers come in and order a car, he forwards the order to Fiat and handles the financing/registration, etc.

    Most North American Porsche dealerships are similar. There may be a few new cars on the lot (for impulse shoppers, I guess), but the majority of customers special-order their cars.

    It’s a lean and more system. Dealers don’t have to spend a fortune on real estate, inventory financing, etc.

  6. I recently went to test drive the Subaru BRZ (here in the U.S. market) and the dealer’s entire allotment was sold out. They were taking deposits for the cars due to arrive in December. I must say, however, the sales person I spoke with did direct me across the street to the Toyota/Scion dealer (sold in the U.S. under the Scion brand as the FR-S) pointng out that there was one on their lot.

    Across the street I went and took the car for a test drive. It was equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission. Not a bad car overall. Adequate power and felt quite nicely balanced. I would like to find one with the 6-speed manual as I typically prefer that gearbox and have read reviews praising its excellence.

    Both stores indicated fixed, no-haggle pricing.

  7. I enjoy configuring a car on the internet …buying one would be the next step.
    Usually though when one configures a car via” build your own” on a automaker’s website you end up with an accurate price ..but then they always refer you to your local dealer who, very rarely, has the car with the options you just configured.

    The Subaru BRZ… saw one in the parking lot the other day and have to get close to see what it was…from a distance I thought it was a Ferrari. It seems super secret because haven’t heard too much about it.

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