CARY, N.C. -

In a May phone interview, Dealertrack Canada vice president and general manager Richard Evans was asked how far away Canada was from being able to buy a car 100 percent online.

“First of all, isn’t that exciting?” he said. “Just the prospect of it has us really fired up.”

Evans said the company was “not ready to set a specific timeline” as to when Canada, in particular, would have full online auto retail, “but we see it coming.”

He added: “We think it’s coming quickly. It’s going to sneak up. And I think the most exciting part of that is that the consumer demand is there.”

Through its own data and outside market research, Dealertrack has found that it’s not only a want of consumers, but dealers as well.

“So, we feel confident we’re marching in the right direction here,” Evans said.

That march took a big step forward earlier this year, when Dealertrack Canada teamed up with TRADER Corp. to launch a transaction communication platform for Canadian car dealers.

That was part of a partnership to “bridge the gap between the online and in-store consumer experience while enabling the transformation of auto retailing through connected car buying technologies,” the companies said in a February news release.

“Every other aspect of the retail environment, whether it’s electronics, whether it’s home improvement, we’re moving to digital retailing of these areas,” Evans said in the phone interview.

“We (in the automotive industry) use the term ‘digital retail’ around automotive as if we’ve sort of taken the claim to this, but digital retailing has transformed pretty much every sector already,” he said. “I think it’s automotive that’s now getting there. And we talk about digital retailing around that; but digital retail is out there, consumers are already using it, it’s really just automotive catching up to that reference.”

He added that “we don’t think we’re early” in launching the tool.

“We’re going where the market is. The market’s telling us they want to be there. It’s relevant for dealers and ultimately we want to future-proof this business,” Evans said. “We think that’s where we need to be in order to do that.”

There are challenges, however, to automotive ecommerce. 

One, in particular, deals with integration in a spider web of various systems, platforms and players within the auto business.

“Doing this type of work in a vacuum is a lot easier. If you have a blank sheet of paper and you say, ‘OK, you can control all of the variables,’ then doing ecommerce in automotive is pretty straightforward. The tools are all out there. But we don’t live in that vacuum,” he said.

“So the big challenge and limitation that we are hitting straight on is around data capture and integration. And that’s the big one,” Evans said.

Consider all the iterations of DMS products, CRM systems, lenders, automakers, aftermarket providers and trade tools.

“In order to create a seamless digital retailing automotive experience, you need to pull all of those data sources and integrate all of those platforms together in order to solidify a transaction,” he said. “So, the core of the Cox Automotive, Dealertrack solution is to focus on the underpinning; it’s that hub of data, and the integration that can then be exposed to dealers in a way that they can consume into their stores, into their websites.”

When asked, Evans said dealers are best-equipped to handle automotive ecommerce, but he emphasized that they probably won’t be the only ones to offer it.

That said, dealers shouldn’t struggle with adoption, albeit the aforementioned integration challenge.

“We think dealers are best-provisioned,” Evans said. “They know more about selling cars in the Canadian market than anyone else.”