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Reorienting Sales Pitch

June 21, 1999|JONATHAN GAW

Moving into the Japan market isn't just a different geography. When it comes to selling cars, it's a different mind-set, as Irvine-based Inc. has discovered.

Only recently have Japanese car dealers begun to open showrooms, similar to how cars in the U.S. are sold. How are Japanese cars sold traditionally? Door-to-door.

Try that in 1990s USA. There are reasons why vacuum cleaners aren't sold that way here anymore.

"It's more of a professional process there," said Joshua McCarter, vice president for strategic business development for the Irvine-based online car referral service, which last week launched its Web site targeting Japan. "The flip side is that even though they see the sales people as being professional, [Japanese car buyers] still don't understand the costs in a car."

Japanese buyers are just as suspicious of the car-buying process as Americans, but don't have access to information such as invoice prices and manufacturer's incentives that Americans have had for years, McCarter said.

The inefficiencies of the car-selling process means higher prices in Japan and auto salesmen who on average sell four vehicles a month, compared to nine a month for the average U.S. car salesman, McCarter said.

Jonathan Gaw covers technology and electronic commerce for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7818 and at

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