THE NEW SIEGE ON DEALERS

On CDK Global’s earning call earlier this month, Lee J. Brunz, E.V.P. of CDK Global made an interesting comment when asked about this year’s new car sales projections. He said the drop in SAAR over the last six months was less than 1% on the retail side and that the mix of vehicles being sold – SUVs, crossovers, and light trucks –  are resulting in higher margins. The CEO, Brian MacDonald, said a slowdown was coming, but there didn’t seem to be a sense of panic among the dealers.

Encouraging words for an industry that had its sharpest drop in July. Add to the situation there is no lack of disruptors, inventors and opportunists that find the automotive retail industry ripe for some kind of market share pickings. Here are a few (listed alphabetically).

Amazon – Yes, the retail killer. They launched Amazon Vehicles a year ago as a research site and I’m guessing Cars.com, Edmunds, CarGurus and Autotrader are watching closely. But new cars may not be where the action is right now (in the U.S. anyway). It’s parts. Looks like Amazon is going after the DIY crowd and Discount Auto Parts-type retailers, but what would stop them from going after your counter sales which according to the NADA 2016 Data is worth $3B. Catch up here and here.

AutoGravity – Over 250,000 downloads of their consumer app, 1000 dealer sign-ups and an investment into the company from VW. Part of the FINTECH world this app allows consumers to get financing in a snap.

Blinker – Another financing app. Blinker is the bank. Targeting the used-car, private party market, they are in Colorado and Texas for now.  Heavy tech makes it easy for consumers to use. Blinker ownership has a deep, auto retail background.

CarMD – For about $90 this gadget plugs into a vehicle’s computer system to diagnose problems. More for the DIY and enthusiasts, it’s one more thing your customer might be using. CarMD does not work with local dealers to provide mechanics.

CarSaver – A Sean Wolfington scion and in alliance with Walmart. TrueCar-type service for dealers (pay a fee when the car sells) with a brick & mortar twist. AutoNation and Ally are involved. TrueCar still has a Sam’s Club partnership. Costco shouldn’t have all the fun. Additional info here and here.

Carvana – They get a lot of attention because they build monolithic used-car vending-machines in major cities. Not as huge as the one in Singapore (owned by Autobahn Motors), but just as dramatic. On their website they state that a shopper doesn’t have to go to a dealership anymore. As reported by Automotive News TV First Shift (Aug 15, 2017), Carvana had a $38.9M loss in Q2 with a 142% rise in revenue (of $209 million) as compared to same period last year.

Drive Motors and Roadster – Digital retailing solutions plugged in to dealer’s websites. Let’s face it, shoppers want an Apple/Amazon experience when buying a car no matter the complexity of the transaction. Check with your OEM for approval to add to manufacturer’s websites.  Roadster’s program is for new cars only. These programs work with, rather than against, the dealer.

Drivin – An online B2B auction that was recently purchased by KAR (parent company of Adesa) that they had been partnered with. They have a tech and analytics platform that would provide better decisions for the dealer.

Fair – A micro-ownership concept. Financing is involved. They have some big hitters on team (Scott Painter, creator of TrueCar, for one). Here’s the app description: Why lease or get a loan when you can drive Fair? Only Fair lets you shop, get approved and pay for a car, all on your phone, with the freedom to walk away at any time. Warranty, maintenance and roadside assistance included – that’s Fair! More here.

Overstock Cars – A new classified site of four million vehicles from the Overstock.com folks with financing and warranty products for sale. Email them: support@cars.overstock.com to add your inventory. Overstock’s corporate headquarters: 801-947-3100. If your inventory is already on the site check the pricing. I saw a lot of cars at $0.

Shift – A used car classified site in California (at this time) that brings the car to the consumer. Hertz supplies the inventory. More here.

Tred – Another fintech, used-car, peer-to-peer product out of Seattle. Their pitch to the consumer audience: get more for you used car because dealers have to pay for overhead and salespeople and will pass those costs on to you. Just purchased by Ally. Only available in the Washington or Oregon area if you are a seller. Now that Ally is involved expect a nation-wide rollout. More here (paywall).

Your Mechanic – A TaskRabbit-type service to fix cars. Mechanics come to the customer’s home which means the car is not in a dealer’s service drive. Consumers can sign up for reminders.

Trends on the international front: Alibaba plans a vending machine and Amazon is selling Fiats in Europe.

Oh, and though this isn’t an auto retailer disruptor, per se, it is an interesting and new advertising idea: Rideplay. Reach people who ride in Ubers/Lyfts. Revelers having fun on a Saturday night might not be a completely captured target, but there might be a dealer out there who would give it a shot: https://www.rideplay.tv/advertisers.

Afterall, a few dragons in the arsenal might not be a bad idea.

Molly Curry has been in the automotive retail industry since the 1970’s. She has launched vendorDBauto, a searchable database of vendors for the car dealer. Search by vendor name or by category. For more info: molly.curry@vendorDBauto.com or 954-729-3184. Follow on Twitter @vendorDBauto or LinkedIn. Read more of her postings on the blog: http://blog.vendordbauto.com

 

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