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Porsche has announced it will start selling new and pre-owned cars and SUVs online in the US, but there’s a catch: buyers will still have to trek to a dealership to sign some paperwork and, of course, pick up their vehicle.
This is not all that surprising, but it is somewhat funny to me to announce a new online sales initiative that still requires the review and signature of more paperwork at a physical dealership. It reminds me of how it felt freeing when airports first started letting people check in at touchscreen kiosks… right up until the moment you realized you still had to stand in a twisting line if you needed to check a bag.
Buying cars online is not a new idea — just look at sites like CarMax or Carvana — but they are a newer idea for automakers and their dealerships, so it makes sense that Porsche would want to carefully wade in. One exception to this rule is Tesla, which has put even more focus on online sales this year that CEO Elon Musk boasts can be completed in just two minutes.
The biggest difference between Tesla and Porsche’s online sales at the moment is that Tesla (like CarMax or Carvana) will ship the car to you, no separate trip required. Musk’s boasts about the ease of Tesla’s ordering process sometimes cause me to recoil a bit; shouldn’t making a $40,000 and up buying decision have a few hurdles? In that sense, I’m sort of happy to see that you can’t just impulsively snap up a new Porsche without having to dwell on the decision as you trek to the dealer to finish the transaction.
That trip could offer certain customers a lot of reflection time, too, as only 25 of the 191 independently owned and operated Porsche dealers in the country are part of the pilot. (Porsche is also trialing online sales in Germany.) Porsche says more dealers may allow online sales in the future, though that depends on the results and feedback of the new pilot program.