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Reorienting Sales Pitch

O.C. TECH BEAT

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 Autobytel.com 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 jonathan.gaw@latimes.com.

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