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Amazon eyeing British car sales sends Auto Trader shares tumbling

Monday, June 12, 2017 - 21:44

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

[MUNICH] Europe's online car market is about to get more crowded, with a plan by Amazon.com 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 Incto 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.

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Market voices on:

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 per cent 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 per cent, 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 program was extended in March and now also includes long-term leases.

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