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Bargaining and Fixed Price Offers: How Online Intermediaries are Changing New Car Transactions


  • Michael A. Arnold

    () (Department of Economics,University of Delaware)

  • Thierry Pénard

    () (Department of Economics,University of Rennes)


The Internet has introduced a variety of online buying services that expand the reach of sellers and reduce search costs for buyers. In markets in which traditional outlets establish prices through bargaining, these online intermediaries have also altered the price setting process. Perhaps the most well known example is which provides referral services in the automobile market. By using Autobytel, a buyer can obtain a non-negotiable price offer as an alternative to bargaining with a car dealership. To understand the effect of online referral systems on the price setting process, we construct a theoretical model of oligopolistic price competition in which one dealership has an exclusive contract with a referral intermediary. We derive market conditions under which the fixed price offered through the referral system will or will not be lower than offline (bargained) prices. Our model provides theoretical insights relevant to results in the empirical literature addressing the role that Autobytel and other infomediaries play in online markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael A. Arnold & Thierry Pénard, 2007. "Bargaining and Fixed Price Offers: How Online Intermediaries are Changing New Car Transactions," Working Papers 07-03, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:dlw:wpaper:07-03.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wang, Ruqu, 1995. "Bargaining versus posted-price selling," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1747-1764, December.
    2. Clay, Karen & Krishnan, Ramayya & Wolff, Eric, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 521-539, December.
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    10. repec:fth:harver:1517 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Ghafele, Roya & Gibert, Benjamin, 2011. "The transformative impact of business models," MPRA Paper 38346, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    online markets; E-commerce; intermediary; autobytel; pricing;

    JEL classification:

    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L19 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Other
    • L89 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Other

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