Products/Software

Car Wars introduces AI-driven call assistant for dealers

DALLAS - 

Call tracking and marketing analytics company Car Wars recently launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) service designed to help dealers connect more callers after first introducing the automotive industry to its CRISP methodology three years ago.

“Phone calls are precious, yet every inbound call is handled in a similar inefficient way. The calls hit the same bridge or receptionist who struggles to connect the caller to the right person. Callers end up frustrated and speaking to ill-informed employees or no employee at all,” Car Wars automotive vice president Mike Haeg said in a news release.

Using AI, Car Wars’ new Cari Connect, a CRISP Agent Responding Intelligently, service analyzes DMS data and previous inbound, outbound and text conversations to determine if the caller is a new or existing customer.

When Cari Connect recognizes an existing customer, it can identify which agent handled the prior call and direct the appointment opportunity directly to the agent who last assisted the caller.

This step helps speed up the sales process because returning callers won’t need to repeat information to uninformed agents, according to Car Wars.

When a call reaches an agent, Cari Connect provides them with useful information to assist the caller. And agents also have access to the existing customer records during live calls.

“The Cari Live Calls dashboard provides the ability to actively watch calls without spending time looking through each agent's dashboard or activities,” said Arianna Goodwin, BDC manager at Asbury Automotive Group.

“The capability to click the ‘Open In CRM’ button while on phone calls has also been a huge time saver. I’ve easily been able to find active opportunities that have not been entered into our system; [Cari Connect Live Calls] has saved countless deals for our dealer group since we’ve started using it,” she went on to say.

CarStory makes AI-driven analytics platform available to lenders, OEMs, software providers

AUSTIN, Texas - 

CarStory, the automotive AI platform from Vast, announced Tuesday general availability of its CarStory Analytics for marketplaces, lenders, OEMs and software providers.

CarStory Analytics powers the companies CarStory Market Reports, CarStory Insights, CarStory Leaderboard and CarStory Marketplace.

"The market is rewarding companies that deliver answers, not just information," Vast chief executive officer John Price said in a news release.

"Our suite of CarStory Analytics gives partners the market and vehicle insights they need to create more valuable solutions for their customers.”

CarStory Analytics provides insight on vehicle pricing, features, consumer demand, condition and images.

CarStory Market Reports are currently live on over 10,000 dealer websites.

The company said OEMs such as Volkswagen and Hyundai entrust the reports to boost CPO vehicle sales.

CarStory has a network of more than 7,000 dealers nationwide, who reach over 15 million consumers each month, according to the company.

Millennials say more tech would attract them to auto dealership jobs

CARY, N.C. - 

While millennials still name car dealer as one of the top three occupations they would like to avoid, if car dealerships integrated more modern technology into the sales process, these same millennials would be more likely to pursue a job there.

This is according to new survey data Roadster released in partnership with research firm Survata on Tuesday.

Car dealer follows behind tax collector, the second most avoided occupation. Politician comes in as the No.1 most avoided occupation.

Fifty-four percent of millennials told Roadster that if car dealerships used more modern technology they would be more likely to consider a job there, according to the report.

“Imagine if you’re a millennial and the only way you’ve bought a car is through the traditional process, negotiating back and forth, writing everything down on a piece of scratch paper, but everything else you purchase is through an iPad, iPhone – some sort of screen device,” said Honda of Seattle General Sales Manager Tim Miller, who uses Roadster’s Express Store solution. “We’re attracting millennials by giving them the option to sell cars the way we sell it, which is through the Roadster Express Store, and that allows them to sell the vehicle just the way they purchase products off of Apple, Amazon and any other online retailer.”

When millennials were asked what retailers they would make car dealerships like, they listed companies Amazon (37 percent), Apple (23 percent) and Starbucks (11 percent) as their top three.

Over 90 percent of the millennials surveyed said having access to technology was important.

“On our end, normally when you go in to buy a car and you want to look at payment options, everything’s done on a piece of paper, and you have to go back and forth between the sales manager or an office,” Miller said.

“Now when you come into one of our dealerships, and you want to see the payments on the vehicle, the cash price, a lease quote, everything is done right there on the showroom floor without any management necessary and everything’s done on an iPad. For a customer, normally it takes 20-25 minutes just to get the customer the information of how much it’s going to cost to pay for this vehicle.”

With the Roadster Express Store, sales staff can have those options available to customers in about 30 seconds, according to Miller.

“We really try to value our customers time, because that is the most important thing that they have in their lives and certainly us as a dealership we value time over everything,” he said.

The survey also found that 61 percent of millennials say that one element about car dealerships they would like to change is the high-pressure sales environment.

Miller said that employing modern technology solutions not only simplifies the sales process and experience for customers, but also for dealership staff as well.

“Training is much easier because all the information is up front, so they don’t have to ask management what are the prices for the car, or what the interest rate is, everything’s on the Express Store. So it really just allows us to focus on customer service, selecting the right vehicle and then minimizing our customers’ time in store," Miller said. 

Additionally, 57 percent and 30 percent of millennial respondents, respectively, named less commission-based compensation and a more predictable work schedule as other changes they would like to see at dealerships.

Between Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, there were 1,006 online respondents interviewed for the survey.

PERQ joins growing CDK Global Partner Program

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. and INDIANAPOLIS - 

PERQ is the latest company to join the expanding CDK Global Partner Program, the company announced Thursday.

The program recently reached over 350 partners and 450 unique applications, according to CDK.

“The continued expansion of the CDK Partner Program plays a critical role in our ability to enable end-to-end automotive commerce for our customers,” CDK Data Services vice president and general manager Howard Gardner said in a news release.

“We want to provide dealers with more choices and ultimately help them deliver a better customer experience through increased integration with CDK systems and partner applications. We look forward to further broadening the range of solutions available to support dealer operations and the marketing of dealership inventory and services,” he said.

PERQ’s Online Guided Shopping Solution, designed to increase leads and improve close rates for dealerships, is now part of the program’s marketplace of applications.

“We’re very pleased to introduce PERQ as the newest member of the CDK Global Partner Program,” added Gardner. “PERQ is a welcome addition to our vibrant program that provides dealers with a range of partner choices and the assurance that their programs can be seamlessly integrated with our applications.”

The program fosters data and workflow integration between CDK products and partner applications. Participants can integrate with a range of CDK applications and CDK dealer websites.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the CDK Global Partner Program, which will make it easy for forward-thinking dealerships to take advantage of our unique online guided shopping solution,” said Stephanie Ragozzino, executive vice president of product at PERQ. “PERQ helps dealers make better online connections with buyers by creating an online guided shopping environment that rivals the experiences consumers get from big brand websites – all with just one line of code on their existing website.”

Auction Edge brings on new exec, reaches over 115 EDGE Simulcast customers

SEATTLE - 

Auction Edge announced Friday it has attained over 115 customers running its EDGE Simulcast platform powered by Velocicast and brought aboard new senior vice president Julie Warpool to oversee the augmentation of all the company's auction systems.

“In partnership with the developers behind Velocicast we committed to crafting an unparalleled user experience for auction user, buyer and seller. The volume of vehicles running through the system coupled with tens of thousands of buyers channeled through Edge Pipeline create a truly immersive experience for all parties,” Auction Edge chief executive officer Dan Diedrich said in a news release.

Auction Edge began offering its multi-lane, multi-auction bidding platform fitted with a modern and intuitive interface design earlier this year, according to the company.

“Since changing simulcast providers to EDGE Simulcast powered by Velocicast nearly three months ago, we have experienced nothing but good things,” said Shawn Glatz, general manager at Morton Auto Auction. “We are hearing great feedback from our online buyers as well as commercial consignors who utilize the online rep capabilities. The ease in which they both can conduct their business is what it is all about. We couldn’t be any happier with the product and the service we are receiving.”

Warpool has been in automotive remarketing for over 25 years, according to Auction Edge. She spent the last 17 years with Manheim/Cox Automotive, where she served in positions as senior director of vehicle solutions, operational excellence, product strategy and technology.

“Julie has a proven history of innovation, but as importantly, execution in our industry. Julie’s skillset, mindset and experience align perfectly with our mission to modernize and deliver the solutions our customers need,” added Diedrich. “Moreover, Julie will assist us in the evolution of all Edge products to help keep auctions relevant, resilient and on the leading edge for years to come.”

Additionally, Warpool is recognized as an architect of enterprise-wide technological and operational solutions.

She has several patents for live-bid event online auction platforms, vehicle inspection/damage estimation and digital imaging systems, according to Auction Edge.

“It’s so exciting to become part of Auction Edge and help carry out the vision of evolving the universe for independent auctions,” Warpool said.

“There are a few things that attracted me to Edge. The first is the opportunity to give back to an industry that I’ve grown up in and unleash a common vision that the Edge team’s share. Second, is the culture and the people. The folks I’ve met are excited to come to work every day and there is a buzz about what can be accomplished. It’s wonderful to see inspirational teams who give their all and think beyond the possible,” she went on to say.

Warpool began her auction career in 1992 at ADT Automotive, which was acquired by Manheim in 2000.

Black Book becomes AutoAlert valuation partner

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - 

Black Book announced Thursday it has partnered with AutoAlert to populate the data-mining and communication solution’s algorithms with its vehicle valuation data.

“With the addition of Black Book, our dealer customers will have access to the industry’s most accurate vehicle valuation data, which can make a significant difference in elevating profit potential,"  AutoAlert general manager and executive vice president Meg Stapleton said in a news release. “Today’s dealership environment requires resources and partners that are trusted by automotive professionals, particularly in an effort to grow their business and maximize sales potential.”

With Black Book as its valuation partner, dealers using AutoAlert can maximize sales opportunities and profit potential when making trade valuations as well as during service and repair visits, the company said.

“Data and equity mining are practices that are not necessarily new to the automotive world, but recently have become even more critical as dealers continue to find ways to maximize profits in light of a sales environment that has begun to plateau,” said Jared Kalfus, senior vice president of Black Book. “As such, dealers need the most accurate vehicle valuation data in order to effectively leverage all data practices, and we’re proud to know they can rely on Black Book to put them in the best possible position.”

INFINITI introduces new Amazon Alexa Skills for vehicle voice control

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - 

INFINITI drivers in the U.S. can now control vehicle features such as unlocking, locking, remote-start and more using newly integrated Amazon Alexa Skills designed to interact with their vehicles, the company announced Tuesday.

INFINITI said it has expanded already-available features within INFINITI InTouch Services and INFINITI Connection to integrate the new Amazon Alexa Skills now available.

"We are pleased to offer this new technology in conjunction with Amazon Alexa to INFINITI owners, who have come to expect exciting innovations and conveniences from our brand," INFINITI Americas vice president Randy Parker said in a news release.

"We are not only about bringing premium features to luxury vehicles, but we are also looking to the advancements that will take our cars, and the transportation space, into the future."

Via the Alexa Skills Store, INFINITI owners with INFINITI InTouch Services or Infiniti Connection equipped with their vehicle can access the new skills that enable voice commands.

The Alexa integration requires owners to have active subscriptions to INFINITI InTouch Services or INFINITI Connection.

Once set up, owners can ask Alexa to remote lock/unlock, honk the horn, flash the lights and start or stop the engine depending on the model.

For other commands such as remote start, a 4-digit pin is also required for added security.

The following is a list of the current INFINITI models the Amazon Alexa Skills are now available on:

INFINITI InTouch Services:

•           2018: Q50, Q50 Hybrid, Q60, QX60, Q70, QX80

•           2017: Q50, Q50 Hybrid, Q60, QX60

•           2016: Q50, Q50 Hybrid

INFINITI Connection:

•           2017: Q70, QX80

•           2016: Q70, Q70 Hybrid, QX60, QX60 Hybrid, QX80

•           2015: Q50, Q50 Hybrid, Q70, Q70 Hybrid, QX60, QX60 Hybrid, QX80

•           2014: Q50, Q70, QX60, QX80

•           2013: M37, M56, JX35, QX56

INFINITI said it plans to expand the voice control technology to additional models in the future.

CarStory launches AI-driven sales prediction leaderboard

AUSTIN, Texas - 

CarStory announced Tuesday general availability of CarStory Leaderboard, a new service that uses AI and machine learning to predict both when and for how much a vehicle will sell in a local market.

CarStory Leaderboard uses the same advanced technology that it built into CarStory Insights and is currently available for free at leaderboard.carstory.ai.

"CarStory Leaderboard is an exciting way for dealers to monitor their local market," Vast chief executive officer John Price said in a news release. "Using our AI-driven predictive analytics dealers can get a peek into the future and track their progress from week-to-week.”

The new service can help dealers maximize turn and profits at the same time, according to CarStory.

In addition to predicting when a car might sell, the CarStory Leaderboard also uses AI to rank dealerships based on the predicted turn. 

Complex algorithm helps Cars.com make 6 site improvements

CHICAGO - 

With more shoppers spending time online before ever arriving at the showroom, Cars.com highlighted the six improvements the vehicle listings site recently completed.

Cars.com explained that it has unveiled an improved search experience for its users, streamlined its search results pages, enhanced its vehicle inventory pages with rich visualization and expanded its suite of pricing tools with the launch of “badging.” The sleek new interface, updated search features and innovative shopping tools are designed for speed and personalization, enabling shoppers to quickly and easily find the right vehicle for their needs.

“Our real-time behavioral data and insights from nearly 20 years of consumer data enable us to deliver an experience that is defined by relevance for the user. Our goal is to help shoppers find the right car, at the right price, from the right dealership faster than ever,” said Tony Zolla, chief product officer at Cars.com.

“Our best-in-class user experience brings us one step closer to realizing our mission of transforming the car shopping experience to be more rewarding, emotionally engaging and frictionless,” Zolla continued.

The site’s advancements include:

—Powerful navigation: Improved search functionality and guided navigation to help users find the right vehicle faster.

—Re-launched inventory pages: Streamlined to better merchandise vehicles with bold photos and videos.

—Smart filters: Contextual filters help users dig deep to search inventory based on their needs and change dynamically in real-time.

—Best Match sorting: Powered by a custom algorithm that weights multiple factors to arrive at search recommendations relevant for each specific user.

—Improved compare page: Lets users better compare up to four similar models and find the right car for their needs.

—Badging: New badge icons on the inventory pages help provide more context behind why a vehicle is priced the way it is. Badging leverages machine learning to assess the closest comparable vehicle and considers vehicle features either in high-demand for the region or those that impact the price beyond year, make, model and trim.

The four badges include:

—Great Deal: which means the vehicle is priced significantly below market average

—Good Deal: which identifies cars priced at or slightly below market average

—Fair Price: for vehicles priced slightly above market average

—Well-Equipped: highlighting vehicles that include additional features that are affecting the price.

"In addition to our intelligent search engine and efficient user experience, we continue to roll out new pricing tools so consumers are confident they're paying a fair price and getting the best deal based on their needs,” Zolla said. “With our new Badging icons we wanted to provide more than just a standard price rating.

“By calling out specific vehicle attributes that may be impacting the price and weighing additional factors such as supply and demand, we are able to produce some of the most accurate pricing context on the market while helping consumers understand not just the ‘what,’ but the ‘why' behind a price,” he continued.

“This helps car shoppers, but it also enables local dealers to be more transparent with their customers, show value beyond price and, ultimately, close the deal quickly and efficiently,” Zolla went on to say.

AutoWeb finalizes license agreement with DealerX

IRVINE, Calif. - 

A day after officially changing its name, dealership lead provider AutoWeb — formerly Autobytel —  on Tuesday entered into a license agreement with DealerX Partners,a provider of data-driven marketing products for car dealerships and OEMs.

Under the terms of the agreement, AutoWeb will receive a perpetual license to access and use DealerX’s proprietary platform and technology for targeted online marketing. The company indicated this process will be implemented through the creation of consumer information databases and audiences, which will allow AutoWeb to generate traffic, clicks, and leads.

Officials explained DealerX will operate the platform for AutoWeb and provide enhancements to and support for the platform for an initial five-year period, which may be extended in perpetuity.

“Today, most dealers know very little about users of their websites and many display the same message to all users—a ‘one size fits all’ strategy,” AutoWeb president and chief executive officer Jeff Coats said in a news release. “Dealers can only hope that the offers presented are relevant and attractive.

“At AutoWeb, our critical mission is to know what users want and when they want it in order to deliver the best marketing at the best time — and to deliver that user to the right dealership at the right time,” Coats continued. “In DealerX, we have found a powerful partner in this mission, and we look forward to leveraging the DealerX platform to further capitalize on the evolving consumer and automotive marketplace.”

At the end of 2016, AutoWeb promoted Billy Ferriolo to chief operating officer to accelerate improvements in its clicks and lead generation businesses. AutoWeb said this licensing arrangement is a prime example of that improvement.

 “DealerX has created a unique, all-in-one automotive online marketing platform encompassing data collection, activation, analytics and attribution,” Ferriolo said. “Its platform employs extensive machine learning in the determination of what content to show which consumer across multiple devices, where and when. This is all derived from the real-time capture and scoring of consumer-driven behavioral events.

“We look forward to using this audience intelligence to deliver a better car-buying experience for consumers,” he went on to say.

AutoWeb mentioned the transaction consideration consists of a lump-sum payment to DealerX of $8.0 million upon the execution of the agreement.

During the initial five-year support period, DealerX will have the ability to earn shares of AutoWeb common stock representing approximately 5 percent of AutoWeb’s outstanding common stock if AutoWeb’s market capitalization reaches $225 million.

If these shares are issued to DealerX, its obligation to provide platform operation, enhancements and support for the platform will continue in perpetuity.

Alternatively, AutoWeb may elect to make a lump-sum payment of $12.5 million upon the occurrence of certain events in order to extend DealerX’s obligations in perpetuity. If such a lump-sum payment is made, DealerX’s right to receive shares of common stock is terminated.

Tax and stock implications

As of Dec. 31, AutoWeb reported that it had approximately $75.8 million in available net operating loss carryforwards (NOLs) for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

In light of the company’s recent stock repurchases, the company reminds stockholders about AutoWeb’s Tax Benefit Preservation Plan dated May 26, 2010, as amended on April 14, 2014 and May 26 of this year between the company and Computershare Trust Company, N.A., as rights agent.

AutoWeb explained the plan was adopted by the company’s board of directors to preserve the company’s NOLs and other tax attributes, and thus reduce the risk of a possible change of ownership under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code. Any such change of ownership under Section 382 would limit or eliminate the ability of the company to use its existing NOLs for federal income tax purposes.

In general, AutoWeb pointed out that an ownership change will occur if the company’s 5 percent shareholders, for purposes of Section 382, collectively increase their ownership in the company by an aggregate of more than 50 percentage points over a rolling three-year period. The plan is designed to reduce the likelihood that the company experiences such an ownership change by discouraging any person or group from becoming a new 5 percent shareholder under Section 382.

The company acknowledged rights issued under the plan could be triggered upon the acquisition by any person or group of 4.9 percent or more of the company’s outstanding common stock and could result in substantial dilution of the acquirer’s percentage ownership in the company.

“There is no guarantee that the Plan will achieve the objective of preserving the value of the company’s NOLs,” officials said.

As of Oct. 1, there were 13,082,948 shares of the company’s common stock, $0.001 par value, outstanding.

“Persons or groups considering the acquisition of shares of beneficial ownership of the company’s common stock should first evaluate their percentage ownership based on this revised outstanding share number to ensure that the acquisition of shares does not result in beneficial ownership of 4.9 percent or more of outstanding shares,” officials said.

In connection with the license agreement, the company’s board of directors considered and granted to DealerX an exemption under the plan with respect to the shares of common stock that may be issued to DealerX under the license agreement, and DealerX and the company entered into a stockholder agreement that provides for various restrictions on transfers of the shares and the grant of a proxy to the company to vote the shares as long as the restrictions remain in effect.

For more information about the Plan, please visit investor.autoweb.com/tax.cfm.