BMW i3 Now Available On Amazon In Japan Photo:
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Trevor Collett | Apr, 06 2015 | 0 Comments

Amazon, that giant online commerce site that began as a book repository, is now selling brand new BMW i3 EVs to Japanese customers - direct, and with the blessing of BMW.

It was always going to happen; the transacting of purchases through virtual shop-fronts operating virtual warehouses, is now fully mainstream.

And it's not just lower value items like books, furniture, airfares, rare postage stamps and sci-fi memorabilia: everything is appearing on the shelves of the virtual store.

Even property sales are booming online, many purchases made "sight unseen".

Sales of new cars - direct and online - is the next big horizon. In Japan, for the BMW i3, that horizon is now just a click away.

Perhaps it's because the electric car is a more 'commoditised product' than conventional cars, perhaps it's the 'early adopter' buyer type that is driving this, but is this the sign of a bigger wave gathering - the purchase, online, direct from the manufacturer, of your next new car?

Here, in Australia, Subaru removed its dealerships from the sales equation - if not service and delivery - when it launched the BRZ and opened sales online.

Tesla too will also sell you a car online; what else would you expect?

For buyers who view an EV as little more than a necessary appliance, or a ‘second’ car, online buying may have a future.

Why bother with the hassle of the dealership purchase, when it can be delivered to your driveway with just the click of a mouse? Like you'd buy a vacuum cleaner... known maker, known product, something for a job...

(Study the features, consider the options and the various models available and click ‘Buy Now’.)

Of course, in Japan, the purchase of the i3 isn't fully 'online': a BMW dealer will still organise the paperwork and ensure access to a charging point, once a customer has committed to the purchase.

But, no doubt BMW, who announced that its i3 and i8 would be available for online purchase back in 2012, is keen for the model to be proved.

For manufacturers, the savings on each online sale will be considerable. And saving money on the 'cost of sales' goes dtraight through to the bottom line.

There are other benefits. The German carmaker can also monitor and 'track' potential i3 buyers who visit the Amazon site and learn more about them - their income, shopping history and interests - something that’s harder to do with traffic wandering through the local dealer’s yard.

Sure, few major purchases are governed by sentiment in the same way as a new car purchase is governed.

So many little things about a car's personality - the way it feels, and smells, and even the sound of the exhaust - can only be ascertained in a personal encounter and time spent at the wheel.

But are there other ways to present this experience to customers? Can it be done online? That;s what manufacturers will be wondering.

For now, much, in BMW at least, will depend on the success of the Amazon experiment. But watch this space…

MORE: Volvo ‘Way To Market’ Plan Bypassing Motor Shows For The Internet
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