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Mercedes-Benz dealers streamline their sales.

Is it possible to buy a car using an Apple iPad? The answer is yes, thanks to Mercedes-Benz Financial in Farmington Hills, which developed an online sales tool for the German automaker’s 355 dealerships in the United States — an industry first.

“The biggest challenge was convincing management that a digital sales platform was a worthwhile project,” says Andreas Hinrichs, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Financial Marketing. “It’s easy to introduce a ‘me-too’ product, but being first is very difficult.”

So how did Hinrichs and his team get the green light? “We took what was perceived as a consumer device and made it into a business tool,” says Michael Kanzleiter, senior marketing manager at Mercedes-Benz Financial.

The application works as follows: Using an iPad, a dealer pre-approves a customer as they sit in a showroom vehicle, says Gary Bell, senior manager of information technology. “The whole sales transaction and selection process is online,” Bell says.

Turning in a vehicle is just as easy using the iPad. Customers approve every transaction by signing the iPad screen with their finger.

Hinrichs says the breakthrough application has been a hit. “Our dealers are more efficient, we save paperwork, and the quality of the data is better,” he says.

The sales tool was preceded by an iPhone application that allows customers to make payments, review their account history, and find a nearby dealer — all on their phone.