CARY, N.C. -

Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights at Kelley Blue Book, may not have started his career right off the bat in the automotive industry — but he was always a self-professed “car guy.”

Gutierrez, one of the Remarketing and Used-Car Industry's 40 Under 40,  joined the KBB team back in 2007 after working in the banking industry, involved in personal lending and investments, as well as auto lending, in particular.

“I had always kind of been an automotive enthusiast, so even at that time, I was spending a lot of time following the blogs, tracking the industry, and even going to auto shows already,” Gutierrez told Auto Remarketing, touting a passion for sports cars, in particular.

So when a friend who also happened to be an employee at KBB described an analytics position to Gutierrez, and that he would be working with numbers and establishing the data KBB puts on its website, it was an easy sell.

Gutierrez was already familiar with KBB, having been shown the website back in the late '90s by his father when in the market for his very first vehicle.

“I thought it was the coolest thing ever — it being the unpublished numbers that only dealers used to be able to rely on, and now you can use Kelley's information to buy a car,” he said. “So I jumped at the opportunity, and that's how I got into the industry and in at KBB.”

Playing a role in innovation & modernization

During his tenure at KBB, Gutierrez has been involved in a variety of projects, including Kelley Blue Book's Vehicle Information Management System (VIMS) and Fair Purchase Price transaction data tools.

“Over the years, I have been involved with a lot of technology and data implantation in vehicle valuation as we have strived to modernize our methodology and really increase the rigor in the process in which we set our values,” Gutierrez said.

For example, back in 2008, the KBB valuations team started working with the company's software engineers to build a new application — which would eventually be coined VIMS — that would allow the company to better manage its values and to strengthen the process that would leverage the vast amount of data KBB was acquiring at the time and continues to acquire today.

“Myself and a couple of other analysts on the team got assigned to the VIMS project. We wanted to work with our software engineers and data engineers to design out the system and to guide us along and to test it along the way,” he said. “I think over the course of a year or so, we built it out, launched it, and today it still sits at the center of the valuation process. That was the initial stab to go live.”

Since then, there have been numerous enhancements to the tool that Gutierrez has been directly involved with over the years, such as adding new screens and functionality, as well as new ways to visualize and track data.

“There is something like 21,000 or 22,000 year/make/ model/trim combinations for used cars that are being updated every week. So we needed a system that can sit there and help us to visualize and maintain, for instance, trimto- trim relationships, year-to-year relationships, and more,” he explained.

Gutierrez also noted that as the industry continues to evolve, products such as these are never “done,” but rather every year the company is making tweaks and improvements.

He also played an integral role in launching KBB's Fair Purchase Price tools.

Dating back to when launched, the site always had new-car pricing guidance, but Gutierrez pointed out the company was always traditionally viewed as a used-car guide.

“But we knew that there was a tremendous amount of friction and frustration among consumers in the marketplace to buy a new car, and we didn't yet have a transaction- based value product,” he said.

So back in 2011, the company made an investment to revitalize and relaunch a new-car focused effort, “and that led to a lot of research and conversations with dealers, manufactures and consumers,” Gutierrez said.

This research ultimately led to the launch of the Fair Purchase Price product, which is KBB's way of providing range-based pricing on what consumers should expect to pay for a new car based on actual transactions that are occurring in the marketplace.

“A year aft er that, we did a transaction based used-car purchase price product,” Gutierrez said. “And for each of those projects, I was the subject matter expert or product owner from the valuation team that worked with our user experience team, our consumer product team, in not only going through the research, but working with engineering to help design out and work through how the products are going to function.

“There was a pretty big team that pushed those products along, but definitely something I was proud to be a part of,” he said.

The importance of big data

Of course, working with valuation and analytics, Gutierrez has become very familiar with the importance of big data to the automotive industry as a whole, and feels offering analysis and valuation data from KBB to the industry is a key part of his current role.

“Through our Blue Book Market Report, and other reports, we want to provide our perspective on the marketplace and our insight because we do have the advantage of having a tremendous amount of data from a variety of sources, whether you are talking listings, transaction data, wholesale transactions, activity on our website, and more,” he said. “We want to make sure the industry is aware of shifting trends and where there are areas of concern to watch out for.”

Gutierrez offered the example of high leasing rates today. What is that going to mean for the industry a year from now? And which segments are at more of a residual risk than others? These are all questions Gutierrez hopes KBB data can help answer for the industry, or at least keep those in the business a few steps ahead of the game.

“I think if you aren't taking the vast amounts of data, research and analytics out there, from us or otherwise, into consideration as you are making decisions day-to-day and week-to-week and making plans for the future, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage compared to others that have embraced data and are trying to work steps ahead of everyone else,” he explained.

An 'exciting' time for the auto industry

It's an “exciting” time for the auto industry, Gutierrez asserted, which keeps him busy in his current position.

In fact, the ability to innovate and try new things is his favorite part of the job. Whether its diving deep into new analysis and examining what's happening in the marketplace — such as the current drove of vehicle recalls — or working on product innovation, Gutierrez says he enjoys the fast-paced ever-changing environment of the auto industry.

As for what keeps him motivated and inspired on the job, he said, “I think it's the fact that the company gives me the flexibility to work with our engineering and other product groups, as well as within vehicle valuation, to try new things and to think about where the industry is going to be in the future, and to actually try and create the product functionality and enhancements to our values that will help to continue to support and drive the marketplace for years to come.”

For Gutierrez, “no work day is the same.” The one consistent element, he said, is checking in with his valuation team each morning to see what's in the pipeline and for updates on current projects.

“We are working on a variety of tasks this year. For instance, we are working with our consumer product team on the way we present our shopper experience on, we are working with our analytics team on the way we categorize vehicles and put them on the website, and a host of other things,” he explained.

Then, it's off to a variety of meetings, focusing on strategies and current projects within the company.

“At any given day, I'm running around doing four, five, six different things, which makes it hard to summarize,” he added, laughingly.

As for advice for young people looking to enter the automotive industry today, Gutierrez once again focused on the excitement of the current automotive market.

He pointed out the tremendous amount of innovation and advancements that have taken place just over the last few years, such as electric cars, and now the possibility of fully autonomous vehicles.

There is obviously a lot of opportunity for those looking to enter the field from an engineering perspective, but Gutierrez pointed out the current auto industry has something for everyone.

“Just about any way you slice it, whether you are an analytics junkie, a salesperson, an engineer, someone in creative, there is tons of opportunity in the industry,” he said. “Whether you want to go independent third-party route, like KBB, or an OEM, or to get in a dealership and innovate in that space, I would just encourage anyone who is looking for an exciting industry to get into, regardless of your field, there is going to be something cool out there. Definitely give the industry a shot.”

Editor's Note: This is one of several spotlight features included in Auto Remarketing's inaugural 40 Under 40. Stay tuned for more.