Ford of Britain has rolled out an online portal for personal contract purchase (PCP) and part-exchange of new cars, following on from the launch of a similar retail platform in the US this spring.

The online retail process allows customers to specify monthly instalment budget, deposit, mileage and duration agreement. It then offers a vehicle part-exchange option, handled by Cox Automotive’s remarketing unit Manheim. The purchased car can be picked up at a participating dealership.

A spokesperson for Ford of Britain said there were currently no plans to offer products beyond PCP to online customers. In the US, the company offers leasing as well as financing through the Ready.Shop.Go portal.

Ford had been piloting UK online sales and finance since March, shortly after launching the offering in the US. The original plan was to deliver vehicles to an address of the customers’ choice, rather than going through dealership collection.

One element that has been carried over from the spring pilot is the use of showrooms as touch-points with potential buyers, taking an obvious cue from so-called experience stores pioneered by the electronic gadget industry.

In July, a permanent “Digital FordStore” opened in Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre. Staffers assist with vehicle configuration and test-drive booking, and customers can now complete the buying and financing journey on-site through tablets. The process can also be paused and picked up again from the customer’s home.

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“We are changing the way consumers interact with our brand and responding to the way they want to purchase vehicles, particularly female buyers,” said Kevin Griffin, Ford of Britain sales director.

Carmakers are scrambling to perfect online retail channels, walking the line between adapting to more nuanced consumer expectations and keeping long-standing dealership partners in the loop.

Hyundai, has already gone down the online-and-showroom route, setting up shop in London’s Westfield Stratford while offering finance through the “Click to Buy” portal. Vauxhall, meanwhile, has recently extended online financing to its Network Q used car programme.

Aside from peer competition, manufacturers are also having to fend off expansion in both the new and used online retail segment from the likes of Auto Trader, lessor LeasePlan and funder MotoNovo.