US carmaker Ford and Japan’s Toyota have launched experimental car sales websites in three regions of Canada. Run in conjunction with local dealerships, the sites could become templates for the auto giants’ global sales strategies.

Web pages for product and other information are common to all auto manufacturers, but Canadian consumers can use the Toyota and Ford sites to compare competitive brands, select the model and options they want, get a price for their trade-in vehicle, arrange financing and place an order through a participating dealer.

Canucks who have tried the websites seemingly like the concept. Says Kathryn Tessier, a 38-year-old chiropractor from Brandon, Manitoba: "I'm not a haggler, and I don't like to feel that I'm being taken advantage of. This way, there's a bottom-line price – it’s the same deal for everyone."

According to Miss Tessier, an attractive feature is the facility to see how different options affected the total price, drawing her to a Toyota Solara coupe instead of a convertible - her original choice. She was also easily able to compare financing options before taking a test drive at a local dealer. "I had to see the car," she said, "I just couldn't order it over the internet."

Canada is seen as an apt test market. Its citizens spend as much time on the internet as do Americans, but are more reticent online shoppers. And over eighty percent say they dislike haggling over price. The Ford and Toyota sites eliminate the latter, with participating dealers offering “discounted or competitive market prices”.

The Toyota site is slated to extend nationally in the fall. Toyota Motor Sales USA has begun a similar test project in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

News source: New York Times