Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the relationship between Wal-Mart, CarSaver and dealership groups, and to add a Wal-Mart statement.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer, is jumping into car sales through a partnership with CarSaver, an online automotive retail platform.
CarSaver, in turn, is setting up partnerships with dealership groups, including AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest new-vehicle retailer.
CarSaver will launch the program April 1 at select Wal-Mart Supercenters in four markets: Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Oklahoma City.
Ally Financial is the program's preferred lender.
CarSaver's digital platform allows car shoppers to select, finance and insure a vehicle through its website or on a touch-screen kiosk, backed by bilingual auto advisers available by phone. Staffers at CarSaver Centers -- set up inside Wal-Mart stores across from checkout lanes and alongside other services, such as vision centers and nail salons -- will explain the car-buying program to Wal-Mart customers.
Customers will be able to select a new, used or certified pre-owned vehicle and apply for financing and auto insurance on the kiosk at the CarSaver Center, on their mobile device via CarSaver's website or by calling an 800 number.
CarSaver then will connect customers with a local, certified dealer and schedule an appointment to visit the dealership. If a shopper doesn't contact the dealership, an auto adviser reconnects with that shopper.
Upon making a sale, the dealership pays CarSaver a "success fee" of $350 in most states. No sale, no payment to CarSaver. Depending on state law, payment may come in the form of a subscription fee.
If customers use a lender that is integrated into CarSaver's platform, dealers still receive dealer reserve, the retail margin dealerships make for arranging an auto loan. The dealership also evaluates trade-ins and sells any F&I products.
At launch, 16 AutoNation stores in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas will participate, said AutoNation Chief Marketing Officer Marc Cannon. AutoNation has no stores in Oklahoma City.