It was an empire. If you wanted to sell a car, then Autotrader was the place. Dealers paid huge monthly payments, and AutoTrader took home giant profits.
When Trade Me entered the market AutoTrader was unable or unwilling to react online – their online offering was appalling. Inside Trade Me we used to say we were blessed with incompetent competition.
Now, sadly, the AutoTrader print publication has ceased to exist, and that online market opportunity is long gone. If you want to buy or sell a used car in New Zealand, then the market is on Trade Me.
It’s a great lesson to incumbants across all industries – when discontinuities happen you must change or risk losing everything. AutoTrader should have known this lesson – after all they were the change that the previous marketplaces had failed to react to.
Change can mean serious revenue loss, at least in the short term, but at risk is the loss of everything.
This could be bad news for TradeMe.
The departure of an incompetent competitor could pave the way for a new competent competitor. (What a tongue-twister of a sentence.) A well-run pure-play online car trader website linked to decent editorial could probably turn a healthy profit with just 20 percent of the total car trading revenue.
Reports of AutoTrader’s death are exaggerated. There is still a print publication, but as you’d expect there is seemingly more emphasis on the online, which suits me just fine.
I have recently had the need to use Auto Trader to find a new or near-new car, and found a pretty impressive “New” section; way better than what TradeMe has.
It has a really slick interface (using Silverlight). You can drag and drop vehicles within the range of what you are looking for, then get reviews, online valuations (on my old car for trade-in), book a test drive etc. I can also see other ‘near new’ (mostly demonstrators) for sale from within the same section.
Frankly, I’m a bit ‘over’ TradeMe with their steep fees and inflexibility so I welcome some vertical market competition.
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