But the Web and apps won't quite replace the dealership car-buying experience just yet. People are seeking out dealers who offer technical expertise beyond a sales-closing agenda, according to a 2015 online survey by Capgemini. That firm surveyed 7,553 consumers who planned to buy or lease a vehicle in the next 12 months.
"I see it increasing but never surpassing the traditional dealership model, especially with new cars," Selly's Klempf said in an interview with CNBC. "The OEMs — the manufacturers — they're very strict on the traditional dealership model and there are a lot of lobbyists, a lot of money into that part of the business, so I don't see it being replaced. I see it being innovated."
Among shoppers for new vehicles, a majority make their initial contact by walking into a dealership, about one-fourth do so online, according to Arianne Walker, senior director of automotive media and marketing at J.D. Power.