Cox Automotive creates Mobility Solutions Group, acquires Clutch Technologies

ATLANTA - 

Two major developments from Cox Automotive surfaced this morning — a new division and a new piece within its growing portfolio.

Cox Automotive said it is bringing together its investments and solutions supporting the future of mobility with the formation of a new business division: Mobility Solutions Group. For years, Cox Automotive highlighted that it has been investing in technology and services that position the organization to deliver advanced fleet management solutions and support evolving consumer mobility.

The new business division, which is focused in part on mobility-as-a-service, will house these solutions and investments, as well as newly-acquired Clutch Technologies, a technology platform powering subscription access for the automotive industry.

“Cox Automotive is continually evolving — delivering digital retailing solutions for the immediate term while developing and investing in solutions that will fuel new models for consumer mobility and enable fleet management solutions well into the future,” Cox Automotive president Sandy Schwartz said.

“The future of mobility as a service is a massive business opportunity, with some estimates at well in excess of $1 trillion by 2030. Our goal is to grow our presence in that part of the business and help all our partners and clients successfully navigate the many new opportunities,” Schwartz continued.

Cox Automotive maintained that it is bullish on the future of automotive subscriptions.

In 2014, the company created Flexdrive, a vehicle subscription technology and services company. A joint venture with Holman Enterprises since 2017, Flexdrive can enable dealers and fleet owners to offer on-demand vehicle subscriptions to consumers via mobile devices.

With Clutch, a consumer-focused subscription technology platform that is now part of the Cox Automotive family of brands, the company said its reach and expertise expands further. Clutch Technologies was invented and incubated as part of Cox Enterprises’ Innovation Fund. Cox Enterprises is the parent company of Cox Automotive. 

More details about new group

Cox Automotive said Mobility Solutions Group will be led by president Joe George, who previously served as the interim president of the Media Solutions Group, made up of brands Autotrader, Dealer.com and Kelley Blue Book.

David Liniado, vice president of new growth and development, Jenny Bedard, head of finance, and Vince Zappa, president of Clutch Technologies, will report to George and help build a team to further develop Cox Automotive’s mobility capabilities.

“Cox Automotive has played a large role in introducing vehicle subscriptions to the marketplace,” George said. “And, we’re already pros at reconditioning, managing vehicles as assets, perfecting the consumer experience and developing elegant software solutions to make complex operations more efficient and profitable.

“We’re looking forward to helping clients disrupt the traditional car buying and ownership models in ways that are advantageous for their businesses,” George added.

In addition to investing in automotive subscriptions businesses, Cox Automotive noted that it is delivering fleet services to car-sharing and ride-hailing companies such as BMW’s ReachNow, Getaround and Lyft.

Cox Automotive also has invested in new mobility and autonomous players including Ridecell, a ride-sharing and car-sharing technology platform, and Ouster, a maker of LIDAR sensors for autonomous vehicles.

Furthermore, Cox Automotive has invested in Getaround, a consumer car-sharing platform.

As consumers increasingly turn to shared fleets to meet their mobility needs, the company emphasized that it will be essential for fleet owners and operators to ensure the maximum in-use time for their vehicles. From servicing vehicles quickly to reducing cleaning time between riders or drivers, the processes will need to be executed efficiently.

“Today’s technology and processes don’t account for the shifting paradigm in consumer mobility, and Cox Automotive is uniquely positioned to deliver the physical and digital solutions to fill that gap,” the company said.

For example, Cox Automotive recapped that Manheim, with its 78 physical locations that span 6,500 acres across the U.S., has already invested $27 million in its reconditioning operation since 2015. The vehicle remarketing company reconditioned 2.9 million vehicles last year alone at Manheim facilities.

“One-stop recon capabilities benefit fleet owners who need vehicles quickly cleaned and maintained on a regular basis,” the company said.

Additionally, RMS Automotive has helped sell more than 1.4 million vehicles globally through digital private stores for OEMs, captives and other large vehicle portfolio owners.

In fleet management, Cox Automotive stressed that vehicle portfolio management is the disciplined approach to managing a portfolio throughout its lifecycle and is critical to profitability. As part of that, RMS Automotive can help fleet owners with remarketing and knowing exactly when to sell units and for what price in order to increase portfolio returns and residual values.

RMS Automotive’s AI-powered Optimization product suite can provide fleet owners the vehicle-specific insights that drive data-driven decisions and improve overall portfolio performance.

The company went on to mention clear signs of how the automotive industry is being transformed by technology can be seen in the 2018 Cox Automotive Evolution of Mobility study, which will be published later this month.

“Mobility services are beginning to be more widely embraced by consumers as an alternative to traditional vehicle ownership with ride-hailing usage nearly doubling and car sharing and vehicle subscription services gaining traction,” officials said.

Cox Automotive cited research that shows consumer attitudes about the necessity of vehicle ownership are gradually changing, with 39 percent of respondents saying access to mobility is necessary, but owning a vehicle is not, a 5-percent increase since 2015.

For urban consumers, 57 percent indicate access to mobility is more important than vehicle ownership, a 13 percent increase since 2015.

“This means increasingly more consumers are prioritizing technology solutions that provide easy mobility over traditional vehicle ownership,” Cox Automotive said.

“By bringing together its investments and technologies into a new business division, Cox Automotive can more quickly capitalize on the shift from vehicle ownership to usage,” the company went on to say.

What the Clutch acquisition means

The company recapped that subscription access is now available in 26 states across the U.S. through Clutch’s growing roster of partners including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche as well as approximately 30 dealer groups. Clutch was one of the first to offer the ease and accessibility of vehicle subscriptions in 2014.

“Cox Automotive’s formation of the Mobility Solutions Group will accelerate our plans to activate subscription access across the entire automotive industry by integrating the Clutch technology platform into Cox Automotive’s core business,” Zappa said. “The combined power of our technologies will fuel great advancements for our clients and consumers alike.”

The Clutch platform can provide the intelligence, capabilities and tools required to deliver vehicle subscriptions, including:

• A white-label solution that extends the customer relationship outside of the showroom and into consumers’ driveways.

• Management of vehicles using Clutch’s patent-pending technology which uses artificial intelligence to assign the right vehicle to every subscriber while maintaining a low ratio of vehicles to paying subscribers, thus keeping costs in check.

• Powerful data on subscribers’ needs and behaviors. The Clutch platform learns, remembers and anticipates what is important to every subscriber in order to build deep, trusted relationships.

• Subscription workflow tools to facilitate easy operational integration and delivery.

Back in September, Auto Remarketing met with Zappa at Clutch headquarters, where he explained how the company provides the software that facilitates this alternative car ownership model, which allows drivers to “flip” into new cars based on their needs at the moment.

For instance, you need a sedan to drive to and from work during the week. But you need an SUV for that camping trip over the weekend.  That’s where companies like Clutch come into play.

“During the week, your demands on transportation change. And again at a macro level, it changes quite a bit,” Zappa said during that interview. “Why can’t the car adapt to that?”

Check out the full conversation from September in the podcast below.

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