Asbury cites software upgrade impacting Q4 used performance

DULUTH, Ga. - 

Just like that four-cylinder engine in a 2017 model is probably much more efficient and robust than the same level power plant in a vehicle 10 years older, Asbury Automotive Group is anticipating an ongoing software upgrade will rev up its used-vehicle department to a much higher performance than what the dealer group experienced to close the fourth quarter.

Acknowledging the software changeover had an noticeable impact, Asbury reported that its Q4 same-store used-vehicle retail revenue decreased 6 percent year-over-year while gross margin dropped by 10 percent on the same time comparison.

In terms of units, Asbury retailed 17,822 used vehicles during the fourth quarter, a drop-off of 2,059 vehicles or 10 percent year-over-year.

For the year, Asbury retailed 76,929 used vehicles, down 3 percent or 2,330 units compared to the 2016 total. The dealer group’s average gross profit per used unit retailed dipped 5 percent or $79 in 2017 to $1,574.

While those might be some negative figures, Asbury leadership is hopeful a dramatic software upgrade — expected to be completed by the close of the second quarter of this year — will provide the lift the company needs to enjoy record used-vehicle performance.

Asbury senior vice president of operations John Hartman told investment analysts during a February conference call, “While the new software will benefit us in the long-term, the implementation led to business disruption, putting pressure on our used sales.”

Later in the call, Hartman elaborated about some of the software’s capabilities.

“The biggest difference is we track market-day supply on used,” Hartman said. “Now if we look at a vehicle, if it has a low market-day supply, we know that vehicle will turn quicker and we can price it appropriately versus a vehicle that has a high market day supply and there's abundance of them in the market. We need to price that more aggressively to move it quicker. So the data is much more fine-tuned.”

Asbury president and chief executive officer David Hult immediately chimed in saying, “The other significant increase I’ll add to that, from appraising the vehicle, it’s more real time data, meaning today and this week what’s happening and the old software was really a 90-day look back.”

While Hult didn’t specify exactly how old Asbury’s software, it might be fair to assess that the platform might have been limited like that four-cylinder engine only pushing out a little more than 100 horsepower.

“We’re not a huge a company, but anytime you change something across the enterprise, it’s painful, so you put it off for long periods of time,” Hult said.

“The software we had was serviceable, but the data that it gave us wasn’t as timely as what the new software gives us,” he continued. “The new software is far more complex and more data-driven than the old, so we’re confident once we get comfortable with it, we’ll really be able to increase our turn, which is what we’re focused on. We want to turn the inventory faster and naturally grow our volume through trades.”

Top-line measurements

In other parts of its financial statement, Asbury reported its Q4 net income came in at $42.5 million or $2.03 per diluted share, down compared to $67.1 million or $3.08 per diluted share in the prior-year quarter.

The company explained its net income for the fourth quarter was adjusted for a $5.1 million pre-tax loss for franchise rights impairments ($0.15 per diluted share) and a $7.9 million benefit ($0.37 per diluted share) related to adjustments to deferred tax balances as a result of recent changes to the tax law.

As a result of recent changes to the tax law, Asbury is expecting its effective tax rate to be between 25 percent and 26 percent in 2018, which is down from its prior guidance of approximately 38 percent.

Finance office update

Asbury’s F&I performance was a bright spot during the fourth quarter. The dealer group posted a year-over-year lift of 10 percent or $153 in F&I gross profit per unit, landing at $1,652.

And by and large, Hult indicated that Asbury has the access to get its customers financed.

“I haven’t seen a big shift in the credit at all, as far as in the subprime market, which is a small percent of our business. The stipulations are getting a little bit tighter, but credit availability hasn’t been an issue in all the tranches,” he said.

Ford’s captive pleased with subscription-based growth after one year


The Blue Oval’s captive is pleased with how its subsidiary is performing while making inroads to serve consumers who want an alternative to securing a vehicle without the commitment of a retail installment contract or leasing agreement.

Executives from Canvas — the Ford Motor Credit subsidiary offering what they believe is a convenient and hassle-free subscription model — highlighted that they now have 600 current customers in the San Francisco Bay and west Los Angeles areas.

Canvas has added features to help customers better personalize their experience, from adding multiple drivers to allowing flexible mileage packages. Canvas said customers so far have driven more than 3 million miles — equivalent to 120 trips around the equator.

“Building on our success in 2017, we plan to further expand our platform and offerings in 2018 to meet even more customer needs,” Canvas founder and chief executive officer Ned Ryan said. “Month-to-month subscriptions are just the first step.

“As our product evolves over the coming year and beyond, we’ll be focused on adding more customization to the platform, implementing solutions to improve the scalability of the business and offering bigger savings for customers who want longer terms,” Ryan continued.

With Canvas, customers have a vehicle 24/7 as if it were their own. They pay a bundled monthly subscription fee that covers a preferred mileage package, comprehensive insurance, warranty, maintenance and roadside assistance. Packages start at $400 a month depending on the vehicle and other options.

Canvas allows customers to select a vehicle, mileage package, delivery location and other details easily and conveniently through its website. When a customer is ready to return the vehicle, they simply give seven days’ notice, and Canvas will pick up the vehicle at a convenient location.

“As car ownership evolves, we see Canvas as part of our suite of products that address changing customer needs in mobility,” Ford Motor Credit executive vice president of marketing David McClelland said.

“Canvas is building subscription products that are relevant to consumers today, and it’s building technology for the future, including billing and fleet management, with a nimble approach to product development,” McClelland continued.

Canvas insisted it has worked closely with its first customers to understand how they’re using their vehicles to refine the experience to better meet their needs. As a result, Canvas pointed out that its momentum to date includes:

—Vehicle selection: Canvas vehicles include a wide range of Ford models from compact cars to SUVs and trucks. Canvas launched with two models.

—Geographic expansion: After launching in the San Francisco Bay Area in May, Canvas expanded to West Los Angeles in November.

—More personalized packages: Canvas has created more options to allow customers to better customize the service. These include the ability to add multiple drivers to an account, which half of Canvas customers have done, and mileage packages that allow customers to flex mileage up or down as often as they need, even mid-month.

The Appraisal Lane steps into Texas market

AUSTIN, Texas  - 

The Appraisal Lane announced Thursday that it has expanded into Texas to meet increased dealer demand.

Dealers in the Lone Star State can join the company’s buyer network encompassing 26 states that enables dealers to buy in-demand inventory virtually — both inside and outside of their market area.

This expansion follows the company's announcement in December that in just a little over two years, it surpassed $100 million in used-car transactions for both live trades and aged units.

Last year, The Appraisal Lane processed more than 60,000 vehicles for cash offers in its community, according to the company.

“We continue our strategic and methodical expansion westward to meet ever-increasing dealer demand for our community and the benefits it brings,” The Appraisal Lane co-founder and president Andrew Iorgulescu said in a news release. “The dealers in our community are seeing increased incremental sales while mitigating exposure to wholesale loss. 

“Additionally, with The Appraisal Lane, transparency and a responsive process provide a better customer experience.  We're pleased to bring this platform to dealers in the competitive Texas automotive marketplace."

The Appraisal Lane is available across the entire Eastern Seaboard, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas.

Carvoy introduces digital marketplace platform for dealers


Carvoy announced Thursday the launch of Carvoy Ignite, an end-to-end e-commerce SaaS platform designed to convert auto dealers’ websites into an online marketplace.

The digital platform is available to dealerships nationwide and easily integrates with dealers’ pre-existing systems, the company said.

The automotive-tech startup, Carvoy, the parent company of Carvoy Ignite, provides a transparent online solution to new-car leasing and user-dealer connectivity. Its technology allows users to start and finish the entire leasing process from their desktop.

Carvoy has partnered with over 300 dealerships on the East Coast, according to the company.

The company said it launched Carvoy Ignite to continue creating synergies for dealerships.

Carvoy Ignite can increase the amount of dealerships’ sales transactions because it gives consumers access to inventory after hours and cuts down on the time it takes to get a lease done, according to Carvoy.

In addition to allowing dealerships to create customizable online showrooms, Carvoy Ignite provides dealers with real-time analytics of all transactions to both access granular buyer behavior and guide pricing via its digital dashboard.

“For most, the car buying experience is associated with time-consuming negotiations and reviewing extensive paperwork. Carvoy Ignite gives consumers an experience they can be excited about while simultaneously increasing profits for dealers,” Carvoy Ignite chief executive officer and co-founder Daniel Yuabov said in a news release. “Carvoy Ignite was born out of a deep understanding of the issues that exist within the automotive industry.

“Supplying dealerships with the tools they need to be able to address the customer demand for a more simplified, efficient and user-friendly car buying process,” Yuabov continued.

The Carvoy Ignite dashboard includes trackable inventory, automated desking, finance and insurance (F&I) package options, trade-in options and customer credit approval.

During transactions, the F&I department will receive digitized deals that Carvoy Ignite pushes directly into their financing software with pre-selected add-ons.

Whether on the showroom floor or in the F&I office, Carvoy Ignite also provides dealerships access to text-enabled customer follow-ups and links for in-store personnel.

Carvoy said the technology allows salespeople to operate more effectively because they can manage all transactions transparently from a mobile device.

“In today’s world, every industry is shifting their inventory to online marketplaces and I always worried it wouldn’t be a fit,” Smithtown Toyota director of business development Steve Gaynor explained in the news release. “After learning about Carvoy Ignite, I realized this will not only provide my customers with the online experience they are looking for when leasing a car, but it will help my colleagues when they are providing consumers with the exact car that they want.”

Updated to clarify details of Carvoy platform.

Carvana adds Charleston to market list


Carvana announced Wednesday that it has added Charleston, S.C., to its growing portfolio of markets.

Charleston residents can now join Palmetto State drivers across Columbia and Greenville who can shop Carvana’s more than 9,000 vehicles and schedule as-soon-as-next-day vehicle delivery, the company said.

“Charleston is a vibrant city that balances the traditional while always offering something new,” Carvana founder and chief executive officer Ernie Garcia said in a news release. “We’re looking forward to area residents taking the same approach to car buying — meeting those traditional purchase needs in a new way with Carvana.”  

Carvana has made vehicle deliveries to customers in 48 states. It provides free delivery in 48 markets.

KPMG, TSI Auto Solutions partner to provide OEMs, dealers management software in Australia, New Zealand

MONCTON, New Brunswick - 

KPMG and TSI Auto Solutions announced Wednesday a new commercial partnership to launch business management software for Australian and New Zealand automotive manufacturers and dealer groups.

As partners, according to the two companies, their plans are to come together to deliver both financial and non-financial performance solutions centered on key dealer performance metrics, business plan forecasting and contact solutions for KPMG clients.

“This relationship with KPMG represents a powerful opportunity for TSI Auto Solutions to significantly expand our presence in Australia and New Zealand, a vibrant and very important market, and extend further to China over time. TSI Auto Solutions president and chief executive officer Jane Ravenshaw said in a news release.

“KPMG has clearly demonstrated its ability to apply its considerable resources and expertise to lead major markets," she added. 

TSI Auto Solutions has been a business intelligence solutions provider to the Canadian automotive industry for nearly 17 years.

In March, TSI Auto Solutions and KPMG will demo their solution for dealer groups and OEMs at the National Automobile Dealers Association Show in Las Vegas.

“The KPMG Australia team is excited about teaming up with TSI Auto Solutions,” said Steve Bragg, KPMG Australia director of motor industry services. “Working with TSI, will help us deliver on our growth strategy by equipping KPMG with the optimal business management software to serve the Australian and New Zealand automotive markets.”

Auto Market Direct introduces online used-car marketplace app


Auto Market Direct announced Thursday the launch of its used-car marketplace mobile application that is now available in beta to U.S. consumers and dealers.

Via the used-car marketplace, sellers can post, and buyers can search, bid and buy all from their mobile device, tablet or desktop.

The app features a wide mix of trucks, SUVs, sedans, minivans, coupes and convertibles by popular brands, according to Auto Market Direct.

“Our mission was to create an efficient and effective used-car marketplace where sellers and buyers can connect confidently … in-app, on mobile, by email, by sms/text and by phone … and that is exactly what we have built,” Auto Market Direct founder and chief executive officer Steven McAuley said in a news release. “I am delighted to launch phase one of our project that is the culmination of many months of design and development by our diverse team of product and technical resources supported by increased investment by the company.”

The Auto Market Direct team aimed to create a unique platform with the tools that allow buyers and sellers to easily connect, the company said.

In addition to its versatile search engine, which allows users to narrow down their vehicle search by preferred make, model, price and location, vehicle listings posted using the platform are designed to be clear and easy to navigate.

Users can also save favorite vehicles and contact sellers directly through the mobile app.

Auto Market Direct is available on the company website, and the mobile app can be downloaded from the iTunes store.

The company said future versions of the platform will provide users with an online bid and counter-bid function, along with a full range of additional products and services and a suite of price guidance tools.

EVOX Images introduces RelayCars 7 app with more detail, vehicles


EVOX Images announced Wednesday that it has released the latest version of its RelayCars app after adding major updates that provide shoppers with more detail and vehicle research options during their virtual showroom tour experience.

 The app lets users explore hundreds of make and models’ interiors and exteriors that have been on the market since 2015 via 360-degree imaging.

Since its inception, RelayCars has been downloaded more than 1 million times, the company said.

In addition to a new feature that enables color changes based on product-correct color options and more immersive photography, the new RelayCars 7 includes a new “Featured Vehicles” room, which highlights a curated selection of both new and noteworthy vehicles.

“We are very excited to debut these new features that will continue to improve the car shopping experience,” EVOX Images chief executive officer David Falstrup said in a news release. “There are so many advantages to a virtual showroom for car buyers, giving them access to experience hundreds of different makes and models that would otherwise not fit on the showroom floor. RelayCars 7 has evolved to become a greater asset to both the dealer and the shopper.”

Additionally, with RelayCars 7, there are also downloadable experiences in the app such as American Muscle Cars, Virtual Showroom and a Virtual Test Ride.

RelayCars 7 is free to download via the Oculus Samsung Gear VR Store.

AutoGravity surpasses $2B in consumer-requested financing

IRVINE, Calif. - 

AutoGravity highlighted another milestone on Tuesday.

The FinTech platform that leverages mobile technology to allow consumers to apply for financing said it surpassed $2 billion requested financing in 2017.

Launched in 2016, AutoGravity rapidly expanded from 100,000 users in its first six months to more than 1.3 million users, most of whom are convenience-seeking millennials — a digital generation that demands convenience and control in the palm of their hand.

“With more than $2 billion in finance amount requested in 2017, AutoGravity is at the forefront of digitizing the car-buying and financing experience,” AutoGravity chief executive officer Andy Hinrichs said.

“AutoGravity technology makes it possible for car buyers to access any showroom right from their smartphone, take control with personalized payments on any car in minutes — close the deal — and drive off the lot with confidence,” Hinrichs continued.

By providing users with the tools they need to find and finance any vehicle in minutes, AutoGravity insisted that its platform meets the growing market demand for digital retailing and transparency in auto financing.

Featuring real-time inventory, the AutoGravity app can streamline the vehicle-buying process by showing users exactly which dealerships carry the cars they want. Users can access personalized financing offers from the same indirect finance companies used by the dealer; so, they know their monthly payment.

All that’s left is whether to have the vehicle delivered, or pick it up from the dealership.

AutoGravity has built partnerships with many of the largest banks and financial institutions in the world, including key captives such as Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, Audi Financial Services, Volkswagen Credit and Hyundai Capital America.

Additionally, AutoGravity has partnered with the top five dealer groups in the U.S., building a network of more than 2,000 dealers.

For more information about AutoGravity, visit

Dominion introduces DMS hosted on Microsoft Azure Cloud


Dominion Dealer Solutions announced Monday that it has released its new automotive dealer management system (DMS), Dominion VUE, which is hosted in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

The new system features an intuitive interface and bank-level encryption that allows dealerships to access all dealer data in real-time from any location without a VPN or remote server, the company said.

“Dominion VUE secures in the Azure Cloud all current and historical dealer data for all rooftops in the business. This creates unique opportunities to analyze, manage and improve business metrics against industry standards,” president of Dominion DMS at Dominion Dealer Solutions Van Koppersmith said in a new release.

Dominion VUE can run on most browsers and device types, and it requires no VPN or associated fees.

In addition to a suite of fully integrated dealer management applications, Dominion VUE also has a STAR-compliant API for third-party integrations, according to the company.

“Dealers have struggled for years on patched DMS programs that mostly frustrate their employees and customers.  In contrast, Dominion VUE provides the first holistic Fixed Ops solution built at one time, on a single platform, with seamless transitions from one step in the operation to the next. And the one-click customization options, even for enterprise-level reporting, allow for targeted, location-specific results,” said Koppersmith.