The history of the automobile began in the 1880s when in 1886 in Germany Karl Benz registered the first patent in the industry for the first gas powered vehicle. This “horseless carriage” was called The Motorwagen and from 1888 to 1893 around 25 Benz vehicles were sold. Meanwhile, the first commercial car sales was made by Charl and Frank Duryea in 1893. It was more a gas powered carriage than an automobile as we would understand.
Due to expansion into other countries in Europe (France) by the end of the 19th century Benz was the largest car company in the world manufacturing 572 vehicles in 1899.
In 1903 France became the world’s leading automaker, producing 30,124 cars (almost 49% of the global market). At the same time the USA managed to manufacture only 11,235 cars.
For the duration of World War II almost all car manufacturers were forced to curtail production reducing car sales dramatically. After the war ended, as soldiers returned to their hometowns, they started to buy cars. As rationing of metals and other components lessened, automotive production started to ramp up. This period of increased demand and supply is often referred to as the “Car Boom”.
During the “Car Boom” there was no control over pricing for cars in dealerships. Until 1958 when Senator Almer Stillwell Monroney introduced legislation requiring dealerships to place a sticker on every vehicle from any given manufacturer with a recommended retail price and a list of specifications. It came to be commonly known as the Monroney Sticker and was the most significant development in how cars were being sold. Fundamentally it was the first regulation designed to protect consumers in the automotive industry.
Throughout the 50s and 60s the automotive market flourished. However in the early 70s, due to the increasing price of gasoline, production costs rocketed, and customers were made to feel the pinch. To offset rising costs, car manufacturers slashed the number of models on the production line. Despite this, the cost of manufacturing kept increasing, forcing up car prices. As a result dealers started to push the concept of leasing.
Prior to the 70s consumers typically changed cars every 5-6 years. With the advent of car leasing, the average buying cycle decreased to 2-3 years. This sparked a revival in production that saw many different models entering onto the marketplace again. Together these factors led to the birth of the used-car market.
The next big change came in the 90s when the first wave of computer technologies became mainstays. Buyers started to shift to online at the beginning of their shopping experience. Selecting the right car became a much harder decision than previously because of the availability of the huge amount of new options. Websites of dealerships that at the beginning acted only as an online brochure started to act as almost the whole online dealership. And everything was developing well until the Financial crisis of 2007-2008.
2008 and 2009 were very hard years for the car industry. Total production dropped by 3.7% in 2008 and still further (by 12.4%) in 2009, when just 61 million cars were sold.
However, now car sales and the automotive market in general has started to recover. In 2014 car sales started to bounce back and 89 million cars were sold.
What is the future for dealers and consumers? How will the car buying experience change? The shift towards online sales and omnichannel technologies is inevitable. But the human element remains a prevalent part of the sales process. Tangible experiences like sitting in a car, test driving and talking with a salesperson are integral parts of the buyer journey.
Whisbi is the only company that integrates all of these into one solution, bringing the real showroom experience online.
Find out more about how we have been helping one of our automotive clients to increase car sales.