German Discount Supermarket Sells Cars | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.03.2009
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German Discount Supermarket Sells Cars

The Germany-based Lidl supermarket chain is known throughout Europe and elsewhere for its cut-rate groceries, household items and other goods. But this week, they broadened their focus to the realm of the automobile.

Lidl supermarket

Most people still driver their cars to -- and not buy them from -- Lidl

For the rest of this month, German customers of Lidl will not only be able to pick up bargain-brand potato chips and six-packs of beer. They can also purchase new cars.

At the beginning of the week, the chain began selling the Corsa model by Opel and the VW Polo Cross at discounts of more than 25 percent off their list prices.

But it's not as if potential buyers can just show up at the check-out counter and take one out for a test drive.

"Customers put together the options they want online," Lidl spokesperson Petra Trabert told DW-WORLD.DE. "We then pass that information on to our delivery partner ATG, who contacts the customer. If everything is okay, they draw up a sales contract, and the buyer can pick up the vehicle at ATG's headquarters."

Meat section at Lidl

These are some of Lidl's more familiar offerings

In other words, Lidl is merely responsible for the first steps in the transaction -- chiefly the publicity, the "configurator" for putting together desired options and the contact between the customer and the dealer supplying the car.

Customers have to know which model they want, as there's no opportunity to take vehicles out for a comparative spin. But they can take advantage of the much-coveted 2,500-euro ($3,200) government premium for people who scrap older cars and buy newer energy efficient ones.

Lidl is one of the largest supermarket chains in the world with an annual turnover of some 60 billion euros. The company has 150,000 employees and runs some 8000 outlets in 22 countries.

But the car offer is only available in Germany.

What makes a giant food retailer get involved in pushing passenger cars? In a word: publicity.

"Cars have been a hot topic of discussion everywhere recently," Trabert said. "Once we found a suitable partner, we went ahead -- we have special promotions every few weeks."

The unusual car offer only runs until the final week of March. After that, buyers seeking an automotive bargain will have to do things the traditional way -- by going to a dealership and haggling with a salesman.

Author: Jefferson Chase

Editor: Sean Sinico

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