Google is getting ready to expand its online car-shopping service to dealers in California as well as to penetrate more states, sources familiar with matter told Automotive News. Google have already let dealers in the San Francisco Bay area test the service since last summer. Would-be buyers could now browse dealers' inventory and check vehicle prices without leaving Google search pages.
The expansion of the pilot could be seen as a signal that Google wants to become a more significant force in online auto shopping, considered as a vital part of auto retailing. Over 90 percent of vehicle buyers start their car shopping online with two of every three visitors to a dealership's Web site beginning from a Google search page.
Instead of directing vehicle buyers to dealership Web sites and other car-shopping sites like edmunds.com, autotrader.com and cars.com, Google now intends to keep them on its pages. The service, however, received mixed reviews from dealership general managers who have participated in the pilot.
They remarked that Google shoppers can call dealerships anonymously, thereby limiting the usefulness of a Google sales lead. Google’s service also limits the times a dealer can follow up with a potential buyer. Google's service is deficient of original content like auto reviews usually found on other shopping sites. Although the timing of the expansion remains secret, sources told Automotive News that Google is close to a statewide launch in California.
Expansion to other states will follow shortly. Dale Pollak, founder of vAuto, a dealer inventory-management system vendor, disclosed that Google executive Michael Rose described for dealers how the service works and took questions during the 2013 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference on Feb. 7, 2013 in Orlando. According to Pollak, Rose made it clear that the search engine giant was poised to expand the service beyond the San Francisco pilot. vAuto is owned by AutoTrader.com, which is competing against Google for Internet sales leads