Veretech's Mike McFall: Trying to create 'pleasant' discussions
On Oct. 6, Black Book launched Black Book Online, a Web tool for dealers.
The tool - a link from the dealer's Web site - gives Web shoppers an idea of the value of their trade-ins.
The move is worth watching because it marks the first time that the Gainesville, Ga., company has made its pricing information available to consumers nationwide.
Black Book is best known for its wholesale used-vehicle value guides.
The new service pits Black Book against other competitors, most notably Kelley Blue Book, that have been offering online information since the 1990s.
Will consumers use the Web to do virtual appraisals of their vehicles?
Yes, says Dennis Galbraith, senior director of Web site behavior for J.D. Power and Associates.
"Trade-in value information has increased in importance faster than any other online information that we've measured in the last year," Galbraith says.
Dealers who use Black Book Online will pay a monthly subscription fee of $249.
In return, they will receive leads on potential customers.
The service lets consumers do a virtual walk-around of their vehicles to assess their condition and value.
Value = price range
The trade value is given as a price range so that dealerships can adjust price when the vehicle arrives at the dealership, depending on its condition.
Local market conditions are factored into the value range, the company says.
The walk-around asks for the vehicle make, model, year, mileage, trim level, option packages and condition. The information is compared with similar vehicles in the company's database.
Customers receive confirmation by e-mail.
Veretech Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., is providing the technology. It would not disclose the terms of its deal with Black Book.
Veretech President Mike McFall says the key difference in the Black Book product is that, unlike other pricing services, it does not lock dealers into a dollar quote before they've seen a trade-in vehicle.
Potential customers are given a price range that dealers will offer, provided that online descriptions by customers are accurate.
McFall and his partner Art DeLaurier created the software to be easy to use by dealers and informative to customers, McFall says.
"What we're trying to do is create pleasant discussions because that's how business gets done," he says. "The pleasant discussion is where the price you get is the correct market-based price that the dealer would buy or sell that car for."
Veretech offers a service similar to Black Book Online, using Black Book data, for Mitsubishi, Kia, Hyundai and Saab dealership Web sites.
McFall says Veretech developed the program after six months of discussion with dealers and surveying dealers and customers.
Bob Burnett, president of National Auto Research, the Hearst Business Media Corp. division that runs Black Book, denies that his company is targeting Kelley Blue Book users.
"Although Black Book is not specifically targeting Kelley Blue Book customers, we feel that it is the best product available and would be a great tool for any dealer," he says.
Nathan Long, Internet director at ABC Nissan in Phoenix, agrees. The store is a Black Book Online subscriber.
"I think it's a unique approach," Long says. "The service has done well for us. We rely on leads from a lot of sources."