Amazon eyeing British drivers sends Auto Trader shares tumbling

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 13 Jun 2017

Lex Kerssemakers, senior vice president of Volvo Cars of North America LLC, left, stands behind a 1968 Volvo AB Amazon vehicle as other vintage cars are reflected during the 2017 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, April 13, 2017. The New York International Auto Show, North America's first and largest-attended auto show dating back to 1900, showcases an incredible collection of cutting-edge design and extraordinary innovation. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

Europe’s online car market is about to get more crowded, with a plan by Inc to sell vehicles in the UK unnerving shareholders of the region’s biggest auto websites. 

Britain’s Auto Trader Group Plc fell to a two-month low following a report that Amazon plans to expand its cars offering in Europe beyond a current test run in Italy. The US retailing giant, which already sells vehicles in its home market, is seeking to fill a gap as traditional dealerships lose appeal. 

Tech companies from Apple Inc to Alphabet Inc are upending established industry structures as almost every aspect of making, driving and buying cars changes. Seattle-based Amazon, which has been testing European waters with a limited offer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV models in Italy, is now in talks to start sales in the UK before potentially adding other countries, German trade magazine Automobilwoche reported. 

Manufacturers, which typically sell autos through affiliated dealers, are responding to changing habits by allowing customers to configure cars online. BMW AG is testing online-only sales in some markets, and Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover have opened urban brand stores complete with restaurants and juice bars. 

While Auto Trader’s market position in the UK is “very, very strong,” anytime newcomers such as Alphabet’s Google or Amazon show interest, “it’s enough to unsettle investors,” said Paul Richards, a London-based analyst at Numis Securities. 

The Manchester, England-based online sales platform, which gets almost all of its revenue from the UK, dropped as much as 5.8% to 395.60 pence in London trading, making it the worst performer on the FTSE 350 Media Index. That was the lowest intraday price since April 19. German competitor Scout24 AG slumped 5.4%, the most in 11 weeks. 

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on European plans and it’s not clear whether new or used cars will be offered. The company last year announced a deal to sell three Fiat subcompacts, including the 500 and Panda, on its Italian website. The programme was extended in March and now also includes long-term leases. — Bloomberg

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