Next time you're on Amazon ordering salad dressing, power tools and toothpaste, don't forget to add a Hyundai or two. Amazon and Hyundai announced today that consumers will be able to order Hyundai cars online next year.
"This new digital shopping experience will make it easy for customers to purchase a new car online, and then pick it up or have it delivered by their local dealership at a time that works best for them," the companies said in a joint announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Keep reading the announcement and you'll find this: "Auto dealers for the first time will be able to sell vehicles in Amazon’s U.S. store, and Hyundai will be the first brand available for customers to purchase."
That's sound you hear is dealership sales managers getting up off the floor, as they realize that Amazon won't actually be selling cars directly. It will be letting dealers display their inventory and place orders. So while car dealers may eventually go extinct, it's not going to be happening next year.
Still no direct-to-consumer sales
For one thing, most states prohibit direct-to-consumer vehicle sales, as Tesla learned when it started selling cars online. It managed to work around the barrier in some states but state legislatures aren't likely to betray their car dealer friends and throw the marketplace wide open to one and all.
Carvana might appear to be an exception, since it sells exclusively online. But it escapes the dealer chokehold by selling only used cars, which aren't included in the no-direct-sales state clauses.
So is there any big cost savings for consumers through the Hyundai-Amazon link-up? It's not immediately apparent, since rather than cutting out a middleman, they're adding one, namely Amazon.
They'll throw in Alexa
There is some consumer benefit in the deal, at least for those in thrall to Alexa, Amazon's catch-all name for its digital entertainment accessories.
"Starting in 2025, customers who purchase Hyundai’s next-generation vehicles will be able to access the hands-free Alexa experience they have at home, while in their car," the companies said.
"Hyundai drivers will be able to simply ask Alexa to play music, podcasts, or audiobooks, set reminders, update to-do lists, and check calendars. Customers will also be able to control their smart home from the road, such as asking to warm up the house on their way home, double-checking doors are locked, and managing smart lighting and Alexa routines."
Alexa will also provide timely traffic updates, weather reports and voice control of in-car entertainment.
On, and we almost forgot, Hyundai promises the deal will also provide "innovative customer experiences."