Amsterdam, February 4, 2021 – Car manufacturers (OEMs) are selling fewer cars through traditional sales channels because of changing customer needs and purchasing preferences, as well as the temporary closure of physical sales outlets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, online car sales are of great importance and car manufacturers must further accelerate the digital transformation in sales. The management and technology consultancy BearingPoint examined whether and how car manufacturers are represented with online stores in the most important markets of China, the US, and Europe. The findings showed how significant the differences are between the individual car manufacturers and their strategies for the markets studied.

Online stores vital for the survival of car manufacturers

New customer contacts via online stores are not optional for car manufacturers but essential for survival. However, setting up a web store to sell cars as quickly as possible also means that companies must transform themselves into a future-proof organization that adapts to changing customer requirements and buying behavior, according to the study.

Stefan Penthin, Global Leader Automotive at BearingPoint

The goal for every OEM seems straightforward: create a webshop to sell cars online as soon as possible. But simply creating an online shop is not enough. It also means transforming the company into a future-ready organization that adapts to changing customer requirements and buying behavior. A car purchase is a significant investment and a very emotional process. Therefore, a 5-star online buying experience compensates for the lack of personal interaction by guiding customers through the buying process, from horsepower to necessary paperwork. State-of-the-art processual and technological realization is a must to make it happen.

Dr. Stefan Penthin, Global Leader Automotive at BearingPoint

Manufacturers in the Chinese and UK markets most frequently represented with online stores

More and more manufacturers are establishing online channels and are now represented in the most important markets. A closer look reveals regional differences. For example, there are many online store offerings in China and the UK with high service maturity. 11 of the 13 manufacturers surveyed in China were operating an online store at the time of the study. This places China ahead of the UK (8) in terms of the number of online stores.

US market hardly served by OEMs

In the US, one of the largest car and online sales markets globally, the number of online stores for new vehicles is disappointing at only four. Germany, also with four online stores, is also only average though recently with an upward trend. France (with two online stores) and Italy and Spain (only one online store each) bring up the rear. According to BearingPoint's analysis, OEMs do not consider these to be markets with high online sales maturity.

Tesla is the international leader in online car sales in presence and performance

In comparing the major automakers, only one manufacturer operates online stores in all the markets evaluated, even in Spain and Italy: Tesla. Tesla is not only present everywhere, but the electric car manufacturer also performs best in all analyzed markets. Tesla is successful with its revolutionary sales model because the US manufacturer understands how to meet customer expectations and be where the customers are. And these days, that is online.

Volume manufacturers on par with premium manufacturers in online stores

According to BearingPoint's study, online stores' maturity does not correlate with the segment in which the OEM operates. The study found that both volume and premium manufacturers offer high-quality online stores. In other words, volume manufacturers are not behind premium manufacturers with their offerings. While both segments have their strengths in different areas, there are still some white spots on the map where none of the OEMs serves as a leading online offering.

Christoph Landgrebe, Partner at BearingPoint

Online sales are becoming increasingly important, as Tesla impressively demonstrates. The fact that some automakers don't serve certain markets at all is hard to understand. After all, digitally transforming the customer journey when buying a new car is a key success factor in generating customer acceptance. OEMs that fail to adapt to the trend risk their market position and customer acceptance. Many of the weaknesses we found in the services we analyzed can be eliminated by optimizing the link between the digital and physical elements of the buying processes.

Christoph Landgrebe, Partner at BearingPoint

About the study

BearingPoint analyzed the online offerings of leading OEMs in the US, China, and Europe, assessed their online sales readiness, identified leading practices, and derived recommendations for action. The study also evaluated how OEMs meet customer needs along the digital customer journey, particularly the buying experience. Because the new car market is diverse and customer behavior differs from market to market, the scope of the study was designed to include the world's major car markets – China (31 percent), the US (25 percent), and Western Europe (25 percent) of 2019 global car sales.

The full study is available here.

About BearingPoint

BearingPoint is an independent management and technology consultancy with European roots and a global reach. The company operates in three business units: The first unit covers the advisory business with a clear focus on five key areas to drive growth across all regions. The second unit provides IP-driven managed services beyond SaaS and offers business critical services to its clients supporting their business success. The third unit provides the software for successful digital transformation. It is also designed to explore innovative business models with clients and partners by driving the financing and development of start-ups and leveraging ecosystems.

BearingPoint's clients include many of the world's leading companies and organizations. The firm has a global consulting network with more than 10,000 people and supports clients in over 70 countries, engaging with them to achieve measurable and sustainable success.

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Press contact

Alexander Bock
Manager Communications
Tel. +49 89 540338029

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