EchoPark's appraisal app will be 'real deal'

Starting in September, Sonic Automotive Inc.’s EchoPark customers will be able to use an app to obtain a dollar-figure appraisal of their vehicles good for 14 days for a trade-in or outright purchase.

Through the CarCash app, customers will be asked about their car’s condition, mileage, trim level and options.

They’ll need to scan the vehicle identification number and provide nine to 11 vehicle photos, David Jezierny, vice president of application development for Sonic and EchoPark, told Automotive News. The process should take customers about 10 minutes, with a purchase offer from Sonic showing up through the app six to seven minutes later, he said.

The app and the CarCash vehicle buying arm are part of the evolution of EchoPark, Sonic’s 4-year-old used-only brand, said Jeff Dyke, Sonic executive vice president of operations.

EchoPark, with seven stores in Colorado and Texas, also will pilot an online vehicle shopping tool tentatively called Digital One Stop at its New Braunfels, Texas, outlet starting in late September, Jezierny said.

Sonic and EchoPark have been working for several months with Capital One to develop the technology and capability to allow online customers to complete most of the car buying process through the Internet. The tool will allow shoppers to receive an appraisal on a trade-in and financing pre-approval for a specific deal, Dyke and Jezierny said.

“This isn’t a ‘probably you qualify,’?” Jezierny said. “This is a real deal, and they’re working with other lenders and a third party to host the decisioning model so that we could plug other lenders in. So it isn’t just Capital One. Eventually, on the new-car side, you could have the captives involved in this.”

That gives it potential to eventually be used in the retailer’s franchised business.

The tool will allow customers to choose as much of the car-buying process they want to do online, minus a few signatures still needed in the store or upon delivery, Jezierny said.

A Capital One representative could not be reached for comment.

With the CarCash app, EchoPark will first make it available at its stores in Colorado and San Antonio, Jezierny said.

“It has two purposes,” he said. “One, you want to find out what your trade’s worth before you show up at the store. Great, we’re going to give you a real number. If you describe it correctly, here it is, no games and no range like most companies. And then the other piece of it is, if you just have a car you want to sell outright, to us you’re bringing a car to our doorstep. So we like that.”

Dyke said the CarCash app will help EchoPark acquire inventory.

“This is a huge move for us and a great opportunity to help grow the business,” he said.

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