Mike Stevens | Mar 10, 2009

How does your grocery list look? Milk, bread, eggs, new car...

It may not look that way just yet, but German discount supermarket Lidl hopes that’s just how it will appear soon.

Lidl is now offering buyers a choice of either the Opel Corsa or Volkswagen Cross Polo through its online shopping system. As well as the convenience of shop-from-home auto purchasing, Lidl hopes to sway new car buyers by offering substantial discounts.

The Corsa will be priced at just under €11,000 (AUD $21,721) and the Cross Polo from €14,000 (AUD $27,646) which represents a substantial 25 percent discount off the cars' recommended retail prices.

2008-opel-corsa

Above: Opel Corsa

The cars are to be sourced from German car distributor ATG-Automobile GmbH. Lidl supermarkets spokersperson, Petra Trabert, believes the two companies will make a good match.

"Lidl and ATG-Automobile GmbH work with the same target audience," Says Trabert. "We are geared toward the customer who seeks quality in conjunction with a favourable price."

Despite the German economy suffering a recession, the automotive market has been able to resist the trend with February sales up 22 percent over the previous year, thanks to a €2500 (AUD $4900) incentive for owners to scrap cars over nine years old and purchase a new one.

Not everyone is confident in Lidl’s ability to sell cars online. Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, Director of the Center for Automotive Research, points to previous failed efforts to sell cars online and through supermarket chains.

"I think it will be very difficult for Lidl," Dudenhoeffer said. "People don't want to buy high-value products from a discount grocery store." Dudenhoeffer offers the example of online retailer Quelle which attempted to sell cars online five years ago. "It didn't work, even though their site was visited fairly heavily."

volkswagen-cross-poloDudenhoeffer believes that Germans prefer the dealership experience and may be hesitant to make such a large transaction online.

Considering the success of other online ventures and the hefty discounts available, Lidl stands a fairly reasonable chance of making a successful entry into automotive retailing.

Given the option, would you be likely to purchase a car online, particularly if it meant receiving a 25 percent discount off the recommended retail price? This writer reckons he'd have to give that some serious thought...

[The Age]

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