China’s Geely Auto - perhaps best known in the west as parent of Volvo Cars, Lotus and the London EV Company - has launched a proprietary, contactless online ordering platform that enables customers to buy and take delivery.
It is also offering home test drives, booked by a potential buyer who is visited by their closest local dealer in a demo car.
Geely says that in the first week of online operation following its February 10 soft launch, its online sales orders “increased more than fivefold compared to the same period last year”, while sales leads from the Geely website apparently increased more than 75-times.
The company will also handle licensing and insurance in the purchasing process, “creating a one-stop online purchase experience”, and users will be able to choose from different financing providers through the same platform.
Geely Auto aims to expand this service to include home servicing whereby it will collect vehicles for maintenance and return them to owner’s home. That offering is promised “in the near future”.
The company says that “this move indicates that China’s best-selling domestic brand is keeping ahead of the pace with regards to how Chinese consumers are choosing and buying their vehicles”.
Another of Geely’s subsidiary brands, the Mini-rivalling Lynk & Co, which is being rolled out in Europe, differentiates itself by offering its vehicles through a subscription model as well as traditional outright ownership.
Geely's chairman is also a big shareholder in Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, and recently inked a joint-venture with the German brand to make Smart Cars. Showing that these two companies are aligned, MB also sees a big future for online car retail.
Late September the global head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Ola Källenius, reaffirmed the company’s projection that up to one-in-four of its sales by 2025 could be completed to some degree online, outside the conventional dealer model, and potentially with fixed pricing.
As pointed out by Automotive News, one reason why Geely might be fast-tracking its online ordering program is the Coronavirus, which is having a huge impact on foot traffic in showrooms.
Sales of passenger cars in China plunged 92 per cent in the first 16 days of February compared with the same period a year earlier, data from one industry group showed. Geely production in February is around one-third of its usual monthly output.
As we reported a few weeks ago, Volvo Cars and Geely have confirmed they are investigating a merger. Currently Volvo Cars (which has flourished recently thanks to its SUV range) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese automaker, so this would be a fairly interesting dynamic shift.
MORE: Geely coverage