Dealer Groups

Auto/Mate integrates DMS with new developer to enhance reporting

ALBANY, N.Y.  - 

Auto/Mate Dealership Systems has fully integrated its dealership management system with Dashboard Dealership Enterprises to satisfy the current and emerging needs of its customers, the company announced on Wednesday.

Dashboard Dealership Enterprises develops dealership management reporting products and related services such as Executive Eye, the company’s flagship product.

"Managers at every level in automotive retail have more important things to do than spend time compiling data into reports, which quickly become inaccurate and don't tell the story behind the numbers," Auto/Mate president and chief executive officer Mike Esposito said in a news release. "Analytics and business intelligence software allow managers to drill down and identify why problems are occurring, so they can take immediate and appropriate action."

Dealerships using both Auto/Mate's DMS and Dashboard's reporting solutions can now take part in seamless data exchange and real-time updates across the two systems, according to Auto/Mate.

"Our mission is to exceed customer expectations for services, quality, speed of implementation, ease of use and support," Dashboard Dealership Enterprises chief executive officer Josh Blick said. "The Open/Mate integration process with Auto/Mate was painless and we are thrilled that more auto dealers now have an enterprise option to analytics and business intelligence."

Last week, CDK Global announced that it had signed a deal to acquire Auto/Mate.

CDK said in a news release it will integrate the Auto/Mate DMS into its product offering.

Each of the company’s boards has approved the deal, which is subject to customary closing requirements and regulatory approval. The deal, whose terms were not disclosed, should close this summer, the companies said.

 

Used-car shoppers spend bulk of buying process online

CARY, N.C. - 

Used-car buyers who shop online spend 62 percent of the car-buying process there: online.

That's according to Cox Automotive’s latest Car Buyer Journey Study, which examines consumers’ car-shopping behavior during the car buying process and how they use their time.

Cox Automotive found that during the chunk of time car buyers spend online, they research and shop across multiple devices, creating multiple marketing opportunities for dealers, according to the company.

A total of 53 percent of all respondents who shop online use multiple devices when shopping, such as both desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets.

Eighteen percent strictly used mobile, according to the study.

Among those who go online, a breakdown on their usage on each device:

Desktop/Laptop: 79%

Smartphone: 56%

Tablet: 32%

Again, car shopping on multiple devices means multiple marketing opportunities for dealers, Cox Automotive said.

Dealers have an opportunity to create unique ways to communicate a consistent overall message with content specifically designed for each device that consumers use, according to the company.

Car shoppers are getting introduced to the dealership before they actually go to the dealership, Cox Automotive's Scott Hernalsteen said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing.

“After they’ve done all their research online, they’ve made a pretty solid decision,” said Hernalsteen, who is Cox Automotive Media's senior director of research and market intelligence. “So even though they’ve entered the process undecided, by the time they get done with their online work they have a really strong idea of what they’re going to purchase — three-quarters of the time they do purchase from the dealership what they were intending to purchase.”

The study suggests that marketers maintain an integrated marketing strategy because third-party sites are the most-used site of any online resource.

Used-car shoppers spent 65 percent of their total amount of time online visiting third-party sites, while they spent only 12 percent on dealership sites.

“The third party sites are doing a good job delivering the information that they need,” Hernalsteen said. “While the numbers are lower for dealer and OEM sites, they’re still incredibly important to the process.”

Here is how used-car shoppers are spending their time online:

Third-party sites: 65%

Dealership sites: 12%

OEM sites: 6%

Search: 10%

Other: 7%

Cox Automotive commissioned the 2017 Car Buyer Journey Study through IHS Automotive and surveyed a total of 2,175 car buyers who purchased a vehicle within a year prior to August 2016.

Live video platform delivers walk-arounds at home

CARY, N.C. - 

An on-demand, live video platform developed by Los Angeles-based startup DropIn, gives dealership product specialists a tool that brings customers to car lots and showroom floors — without the shopper having to leave home.

“Nobody wants to come down to the dealership and be sitting in the chair and feel that high pressure anymore — those days are over,” DropIn chief executive officer Louis Ziskin said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing.

This month, DropIn began onboarding new dealer clients following the closing of its product’s pilot program, which launched in December.

“Customers shop about 26 dealer websites before they engage with the tools that are on any of those websites, such as text, live chat help, lead forms, contact forms and phone calls,” Ziskin said. “They do their shopping, they’re pretty well-informed. But while they don’t want to talk to a salesman or engage with any of the tools there, they do on many occasions want to see if the car is actually there — they might want to see the car.”

Additionally, DropIn has added a CRM linking tool to its product. “For known customers where anonymity is not the case any longer, they can either send a text or an email with a link,” Ziskin said. “That video call can then can be initiated from an email, from Instagram, from Craigslist — from anywhere that product specialist wants to post it.”

If a call is missed, the CRM will notify the product specialist to reestablish contact with the customer.

Ziskin said an added benefit of adopting DropIn is dealers can also use the product within their service departments.

“Car dealers have always had the problem of ‘how do I give the customer a service walk-around, I’m not allowed to have them in the shop. My insurance doesn’t allow it, I just simply can’t have them there,’” Ziskin explained. “Now, the service specialist is able to put that link and attach it to the estimate and tell the person, ‘If you want a live service explanation, click here.’”

When the customer clicks the link, the video call is initiated and goes right back to that service specialist who can give the customer a walk-around in the shop that has no liability because the customer is not physically in the shop.

“You’re able to explain, ‘You need brakes and this is why, you need a new fan belt and this is why, you need new tires and this is why.’ The customer can now, in real-time, say, ‘Well, can my tires last another couple hundred miles, do I really need to really replace this now,’” he said.

When a customer receives just an estimate and maybe a picture, many of their questions don’t get answered. “So the estimate absorption rates are about 50 percent,” Ziskin said.

Dealers who have piloted DropIn within their service departments have self-reported a 25 percent higher estimate absorption, according to Ziskin.

“The closing rates are self-reported by the dealers themselves; the only thing we know is that there was a video call, and we know if they made an appointment during the call or if the lead form was filled out after the call, but we don’t know whether that converted to a sale,” Ziskin added.

“Our numbers are reported by the dealerships themselves as far as conversion to sale. They obviously have an incentive to downplay those numbers because they want our product cheaper and they’re still reporting anywhere from 20 to 30 percent closing,” he said.

Global used-car market builder secures $22M investment

BOSTON and BERLIN - 

Frontier Car Group, a new global company that builds and runs marketplaces for used cars in five countries, recently announced the closing of a $22 million investment made by a portfolio of global investors led by Balderton Capital.

With operations in Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, the group said it will put the funds toward growing the emerging markets within each country.

"Frontier Car Group is an exciting company with huge potential and we are delighted to lead an investment in this company," Balderton Capital general partner Daniel Waterhouse said in a news release. "The co-founders have a clear vision for the future of automotive sales and are leading a Berlin-based team who have developed a technical solution and operational model that allows the company to scale effectively at great speed. The fact that they are already live in five continents is a testament to their diligence and determination."

EchoVC+, TPG/Satya, NEA and Partech Ventures also partnered with Balderton Capital in the investment round. Waterhouse and Eghosa Omoigui of EchoVC+ have assumed seats on the FCG board of directors.

FCG's current businesses include VendeNosTuAuto of Chile, VendeTuAuto of Mexico, Cars45 of Nigeria, CarFirst of Pakistan and Ototrink of Turkey.

Founded last year, the global company has grown to have 200 employees around the world, including operations in Berlin, home of its technical, financial and operational headquarters.

"The automotive sales sector is fundamentally broken in top tier emerging markets around the world. Despite massive consumer demand, there is no good scalable way for people to sell their used cars efficiently for a fair price," FCG co-founder and chief executive officer Sujay Tyle said. "Our vision is to reinvent how the used automotive sales sector works in global emerging markets through technology and infrastructure creation."

Tyle, along with Peter Lindholm and Andre Kussmann, launched FCG in September.

Before launching the group, Tyle co-founded Hired.com and served as its chief operations officer, Lindholm was an investment manager at Millicom, and Kussmann was director of engineering at Auto1 in Berlin.

PERQ adds KBB to data providers list

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - 

Since adding Kelley Blue Book to its list of data providers, PERQ said the addition has increased the number of trade-in leads generated by PERQ’s FATWIN Web Engagement platform for its dealer customers by up to 300 percent.

The integration of Kelley Blue Book’s data with FATWIN provides online visitors both increased confidence in the valuations of their used vehicles and a better online experience, PERQ said.

“We’re excited to work with PERQ and further extend our market-reflective Blue Book Values,” said Damon Bennett, senior director of syndication for Kelley Blue Book. “Given that determining whether pricing is fair is among the biggest pain points when transacting, Kelley Blue Book is providing consumers with the confidence of how much to expect for their car.” 

Initial results have shown that combining Kelley Blue Book data with FATWIN’s trade appraisal is drawing more online visitors and yielding higher conversion.

“Dealerships are, on average, experiencing a 3-time increase in trade-in leads, 5 times the volume of trade-in sales and a 9.2 percent higher average gross profit per unit sold,” PERQ said.

There are more than 300 dealership websites currently utilizing PERQ’s FATWIN Web Engagement solution, according to the company.​

“The consumer experience is of paramount importance to engaging online visitors and converting leads into dealership sales,” PERQ executive vice president of product Stephanie Ragozzino said. “By combining Kelley Blue Book’s valuation data with PERQ’s uniquely intuitive interactive online experience, dealerships have an even more powerful opportunity to engage more visitors via our trade-in tool and turn more of those leads into car sales.” 

For more details about FATWIN’s use of Kelley Blue Book’s data, click here

GWC Warranty offers video email marketing tool trial

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - 

GWC Warranty is now offering Elite Dealers a free 30-day trial to access video email marketing platform Covideo, which allows dealers to create and track video email marketing messages for customers.

Dealers can use the marketing service tool for internet inquiry responses, vehicle walk-arounds, sales follow-ups and service reminders.

“Use of Covideo in dealerships has been proven to increase internet lead conversion rates by 20 percent and produce 27 percent more dealership visits,” GWC Warranty said.

An additional one-user package designed for smaller independent used car dealers is available at an exclusive discounted rate, according to the company.

Through the end of the year, dealers who sign up for the Covideo trial offering will have the option to extend their one-user subscription.

GWC Warranty Elite Dealers can contact their dealer consultants to sign up for Covideo.

Serra-Maroone partnership 'great for our employees and customers'

CARY, N.C. - 

In a news release earlier this week, The Presidio Group discussed a few details surrounding the sale of four Serra Automotive, Inc. dealerships to former AutoNation executive Mike Maroone, a deal in which it advised Serra Automotive.

As part of the transaction, which was completed Monday, Serra Automotive will keep a minority interest in these Colorado Springs, Colo., stores, which will now be known as Mike Maroone Chevrolet South, Mike Maroone Chevrolet North, Mike Maroone Volkswagen and Mike Maroone Honda.

Terms of the deal were not shared.

Maroone was AutoNation's president and chief operating officer from 1997 to 2015.  He is president of Maroone Enterprises and a private capital dealer.

Al Serra, father of company president Joe Serra, bought Al Serra Chevrolet South — which, after this deal, is now Mike Maroone Chevrolet — in 1986.

Over the course of 1998 to 2003, he opened and bought Al Serra Chevrolet North (now Mike Maroone Chevrolet North), Front Range Honda (now Mike Maroone Honda) and Al Serra Volkswagen (now Mike Maroone Volkswagen).

“We have been very happy with the performance of these four stores over the years. The time came to do some portfolio management, and I was fortunate that my friend of many years, Mike Maroone, had interest in purchasing the majority stake in these terrific stores and allowing me to remain on as a minority partner. This partnership will be great for our employees and customers,” Joe Serra said in the news release.

“The Presidio Group was incredibly thoughtful, creative and professional throughout this entire transaction,” he added.

Maroone said in the release: “Serra Automotive is one of the very best auto retail groups, and these four dealerships have a great reputation in Colorado Springs. I look forward to partnering with Joe Serra to continue the success in this strong market.”

M&A advisory services were provided to Serra via Presidio Merchant Partners, the company’s investment bank.

“Presidio is pleased to have advised Serra Automotive in the creation of this partnership, which demonstrates the creative structures available to the best buyers and sellers in today’s marketplace,” Presidio founder and CEO Brodie Cobb said in the release. “It was an absolute honor and pleasure to work with two iconic dealers to put this transaction together.”

AutoNation background; moves this week

As far as Maroone's background, AutoNation announced his retirement as president and COO on Jan. 15, 2015, a move that was set to take effect April 1 of that year.

Bill Berman became executive vice president and COO on Feb. 4, 2015, with chairman and CEO Mike Jackson adding the role as president.

Berman then became president and COO on Feb. 1, 2017.

Berman resigned from that position on Monday, but will continued to be employed by AutoNation in an advisory role through June 30.

 Jackson will take on operating responsibilities and the company will start a selection process for its new president and COO.

“I thank Bill for his 20 years of service and leadership at AutoNation. We wish Bill all the best in his future endeavors,” Jackson said in a news release on Monday.

5 favorite models of Cars.com reviewers

CHICAGO - 

Following an analysis of its online reviews, Cars.com released its latest list of U.S. consumers' both most reviewed and most highly reviewed vehicles on Wednesday.

“Shopper reviews are a critical part of the car shopping process,” Cars.com data analyst David Greene said in a news release. “Cars are one of the largest investments anyone makes, and the car you choose is going to be in your life for years. Shoppers want to know from trusted peers whether or not they’ve had a good experience with certain makes and models.

On Cars.com's list of top five, the Honda brand takes the first, second and fourth spot for most reviewed car. 

Greene said, "The Honda Accord is a top-seller, and has been for years, so it’s no surprise that it is also one of the most-reviewed cars on Cars.com." 

The following is a list of the top five most reviewed cars on Cars.com:

  1. Honda Accord
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Toyota Camry
  4. Honda CR-V
  5. Ford F-150

The iconic Chevrolet Corvette is the review site's highest rated car, followed by the Toyota 4Runner, the only SUV and economy model to take a top five spot on the list.

“It’s surprising to see the Toyota 4Runner get such high ratings as the only sport-utility vehicle among a top five list of sports and luxury cars,” Greene said. “The 4Runner is one of the last SUVs built on a truck frame, while most competitors have moved to building car-like crossovers.”

The following is a list of the top five highest-rated cars by Cars.com reviewers:

  1. Chevrolet Corvette
  2. Toyota 4Runner
  3. Ford Mustang
  4. Porsche 911
  5. Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Additionally, the site's data analysts also identified where U.S. consumers are leaving the most dealership reviews.

“We looked at the data to determine where in the U.S. consumers are most inclined to review their experience at a dealership and found that, by a wide margin, Florida shoppers leave the most dealership reviews,” Greene explained. “Runner-ups include Texas, Nevada and California, where shoppers were all highly inclined to review their experience at a dealership.”

Here is a list of the five states with the most dealer reviews on the review site and respective review totals:

  1. Florida – 365,000 dealer reviews
  2. Texas – 255,000 dealer reviews
  3. Nevada – 249,000 dealer reviews
  4. California – 247,000 dealer reviews
  5. New Jersey – 226,000 dealer reviews

LotLinx builds 2nd remarketing solution for Facebook product suite

CHICAGO - 

LotLinx has expanded its Facebook product suite to include LotLinx VS - Lead Enabled Remarketing, a newly created VIN-specific tool for Facebook users that leverages LotLinx proprietary technology to target high-quality shoppers.

The company’s new product can allow dealers to both strategically target visitors to Vehicle Details Pages and remarket to shoppers interested in a specific VIN on Facebook or Instagram. 

“This is a powerful extension of our VIN-specific demand generation platform. Every dealer knows that a car needs to be shopped in order to sell, and now dealers can produce high-value leads on the inventory they need to move,” LotLinx chief executive officer, Len Short said in a news release.

The LotLinx VS- Facebook solution is designed specifically for new cars and it focuses on car shoppers who are nearing a purchase decision.

According to LotLinx, the new product has already had an impact on dealerships such as Nimnicht Chevrolet of Jacksonville, Fla.

“We used LotLinx to identify visitors to our site who indicated interest in the cars we needed to move. Then, when they saw those VINs later on Facebook or Instagram, they were presented a pre-populated lead form. With one click, that contact information went into our CRM,” Nimnicht Chevrolet corporate business development director Frank Reynolds said. “We’re very pleased with the results — our BDC reps are busy!”

Additionally, on Memorial Day weekend, LotLinx announced that it will be its offering dealers a money back guarantee in an effort to showcase the company’s retargeting technology. For more details click here.

Asbury invests 'every day' in tech, digital capabilities

DULUTH, Ga.  - 

The dealership group may not discuss it publicly very often or show its hand. But don’t be mistaken.

Asbury Automotive Group is working on — and investing in — its digital capabilities.

“We all agree this industry is changing, and it’s changing very rapidly. And so are we. We are not very public about what we are doing to change our business, but I assure you that we are making investments every day in technology and the Web and our digital capabilities,” Asbury chief executive officer Craig Monaghan said in the retailer’s latest quarterly earnings call.

“And those investments are baked in our SG&A. So, rather than a big one-off, it’s just something that we’re doing quarter to quarter. The investments are all about improving the customer experience and expediting the sales process,” Monaghan said. “We actually believe that many of the new entrants that are coming to our space are, they’re actually doing the right thing. We admire some of the moves that they’re making, but I would also say that many of the things that you see them doing (are) happening in our stores already.”

In fact, Asbury has had a 25-person in-house digital marketing team for close to two years, Monaghan said.  He credits this team a great deal for helping to lift internally generated Internet leads by 37 percent in 2016.  

Digital accounts for three-quarters of Asbury’s ad spend, he said. 

What’s more, Asbury had 130-percent more website visitors in Q1 than it did a year ago, Monaghan said, and 5 percent of unit sales for the quarter started in the “PUSHSTART” online sales tool.

“And I’d encourage you to go to one of our websites in all of our stores, look at a particular vehicle and click on the button that says ‘buy online.’ And it will take you to our PUSHSTART tool and you will see an online sales process that in many ways is very similar to what you see Carvana doing,” he said.

It doesn’t offer the entire transaction process online, given that many states still need ink signatures, “but it is a huge step in the right direction,” Monaghan said.

While online sales are growing rapidly, it’s not just cars;  Monaghan said close to a quarter of Asbury’s parts and service visits are set up online.

“We’re all about ROI. Sometimes that means we buy stores; sometimes that means we buy stock. But the first place we spend money is always in the stores and on technology that we think we need to have in place to grow our business in the future,” he said.

Monaghan added: “We think there’s an opportunity to blend this digital world with the traditional brick-and-mortar world, and those are the things that we’re working on.”