RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • As customer expectations change and the automotive industry reaches a tipping point, most established OEMs still rely on traditional sales models.
  • New players are challenging established OEMs and their dealers with a direct customer approach, offering convenient sales and mobility experiences.
  • OEMs start to design new, customer-centric sales models that will allow them and their dealers to thrive in times of impending industry disruptions.


The days in which established OEMs have independently set the tone in the automotive industry are over. Four megatrends are revolutionizing the business: connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing economy and electrification. Every single one of these trends is powerful, but their combination is profoundly disruptive.

The game is changing. Inspired by their experiences in other industries and the rise of new technologies, customers are seeking a new, modernized automotive sales journey. Especially young customers are increasingly dissatisfied with the way cars are currently being sold.

New disruptors such as Byton, Canoo and Carwow have responded to the changing market environment, offering futuristic vehicle designs at affordable prices. Most importantly, however, their transformation of the customer’s journey of buying a car into a simple and convenient experience is posing a tremendous challenge to OEMs.

This is forcing legacy OEMs to reimagine their sales strategy and retail network to meet future customer demands and maintain their competitive advantage.

Traditional automotive sales models are at risk

The traditional automotive sales model relies on independent dealers which occupy a central role in pricing, marketing and sales. By purchasing vehicles from the OEM and reselling them to the end customers, they generate the bulk of OEMs’ new car sales revenues.

For OEMs, the traditional sales model has three identifiable weaknesses:

Unsatisfying customer journey

Online options are limited and the purchasing experience is inconvenient and marked with breaks between channels.

Inconsistent prices and intra-brand competition

Inconsistent pricing creates intra-brand competition and reduces dealers’ profit margin by 1-3 percent.

No direct access to customers

Without direct engagement with the customer, OEMs lack customer information and truly data-driven sales.

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Direct sales: a solution for the future

To provide an improved online experience for their customers, several OEMs have started to experiment with online sales and launched their own online stores. However, adoption of these online stories is slow and the customer experience they offer is inadequate.

OEMs have little experience in online sales and are reluctant to push online solutions due to concerns of cannibalizing dealers’ sales.

For this reason, some OEMs have started to copy the direct sales model of new disruptors. This means that OEMs orchestrate all distribution channels and sell directly to the customer, whereas dealers transform into agents who receive a premium-based compensation.

While this seems simple, it represents the largest transition alongside the introduction of electric and autonomous vehicles. To get it right, OEMs need to strive for excellence in three areas:

Creating customer centricity and insights

OEMs need to put the customer at the heart of their operations. They must invest in the right organizational set-up and IT infrastructure.

Leveraging the dealer network

Traditional OEMs’ existing dealer networks are assets, and especially valuable to newcomers. But getting dealers on board is challenging.

Transforming the core to sell in the new

OEMs need to be ready to rethink their business models and revenue sources. Transforming the company’s core is a bold but necessary step.

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Time to move

Given the tremendous disruption ahead, transforming the sales model is only the first step of the journey towards a completely new era for the automotive industry.

Advancements in electrification and autonomous technologies require enormous investments. Optimizing the sales model can unleash immense financial potential by reducing cost of retail by up to 4% and creating annual savings of more than $1 billion for an exemplary mid-sized sales region. This can help OEMs stem some of the investments that are necessary to keep pace with the disruptive technological changes.

With lucrative new value pools opening up in shared mobility and platform economies, direct customer access is important for OEMs to master their transformation from retailer to mobility provider.

If OEMs do not act fast, they risk losing 30 percent of revenue to new competitors by 2035. Pivoting to a new, innovative sales model can shield OEMs from impending digital disruptions and prepare them for the challenges of the future.

Overall, OEMs are in a good starting position. But it’s time to move now. Are you ready?

Axel Schmidt

Senior Managing Director – Global Mobility Industry Lead


​Johannes Trenka

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Customer Insights & Growth Strategy

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