Online automotive

This week, I had the opportunity to give a presentation to our sales team at Marktplaats and about ‘the online automotive’. As I was preparing the presentation, I reflected on the past twenty years. My conclusion? The subject is far from new!

Back when I was selling SsangYongs, I encountered ‘that internet’ on a Windows 95 computer with the first version of Internet Explorer. In other words, I didn’t grow up with the internet; the internet happened to me.

The first car I listed online was a SsangYong Musso on the website The site advertised on with a banner stating ‘thousands of used cars’. Back then, if you wanted to sell cars on Saturdays, you’d advertise in the Saturday newspaper, which was thicker than two phone books (which don’t exist anymore…). The peculiar thing was that we advertised without photos at that time, and suddenly people would show up with a printout of the ad. It fascinated me so much that it never left me.


When Autototaal allowed us to upload one, then three, and later more photos, we took photos with a Sony Mavica with a floppy disk. Thanks to those photos, we received more engagement and leads! We set up the technology so that we would receive an SMS on a Nokia 6110 when there was an online lead. Because I knew when a lead was coming in, I could turn off the fax modem and turn on the internet, so I quickly became an online specialist. The website of SsangYong Apeldoorn improved, and by 2001, we already had an order button to buy a new SsangYong online.

The cards were shuffled!

During that time, the cards were shuffled among the portals. Wegener Publishing acquired Autototaal and renamed it Autotrack. Auto-online, a collaboration between BOVAG/RDW and Autodata, was acquired by Autoscout24, and Marktplaats fended off attacks from De Telegraaf and eBay, eventually being acquired by eBay itself.

SsangYong was the first online brand

SsangYong was the first car brand to sell cars online with a national advertising campaign, as you can see above. The campaign was ‘Powered by‘, a website I started in 2005 to sell new cars online. We even had a partnership with Tesla at the time. I eventually sold that site to eBay in 2015, after many detours, obstacles, and peaks. There were also alternatives like by Kroymans and by Marque Joosten.

Not new!

So the online automotive sector isn’t new. We’ve been at it for over twenty years now, and online leads are still present, and they are important. They were important twenty years ago, and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. The only difference is that we used to believe that the online customer was different from the showroom customer. Now, you can say with 100% certainty that everyone is a hybrid customer. It’s not an offline or online customer; after all, we are always oriented online!

The direct online purchase of new and used cars has gained significant momentum. And the purchasing process may be different from what some research agencies think, as there isn’t always a direct payment, but communication is simply 100% online, for example, via Whatsapp or Marktplaats Messaging. Payment and delivery then occur on location, but that’s logical, because even after twenty years, a car still doesn’t fit through the mailbox…

All in all, we’re still at the beginning of the online automotive era, but developments are happening fast, and yet slowly! That’s why the online automotive industry continues to fascinate me immensely!

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