Keller, 73, has more than 40 years of experience analyzing the auto industry. She is a former Wall Street securities analyst known for calling trends and developments in the auto world. She is a well-known consultant for dealership groups, startups and investors.
Keller is also an adviser and investor for the startup Appraisal Lane, is on the boards of DriveTime and AutoCanada and has advised or invested in dozens of other automotive companies. In 2001, she opened Maryann Keller and Associates, a consultancy.
Mercer, 62, spent two decades as a partner with McKinsey & Co.'s automotive practice and a decade as an independent adviser to venture capital, private equity and public equity investors. Mercer has also been on multiple automotive-related boards. In 2016, he completed a study on behalf of the National Automobile Dealers Association on the future of automotive retail.
Ken Elias, a partner at Maryann Keller and Associates, will head operations of the startup advisory practice. Elias was formerly a vice president of Priceline.com, an investment banker and an auto dealer.
Why the focus on startups?
"Startups in the automotive business are so popular and they often don't work because the individuals who are starting them up lack the real understanding of some aspect of the automobile industry," Keller said.
Keller pointed to the failure of now-defunct startup Beepi, an online used-vehicle retailer, as an example of a company that should not have gone to market or acquired the capital it did with a business model that lacked understanding of the industry.
Mercer said entrepreneurs can often misread the landscape, especially in online used-vehicle ventures.
"While these may attract funding as sexy, asset-light, app-based ventures, industry economics can become serious stumbling blocks," Mercer said in a statement. "For example, the allure of avoiding a physical car lot may fade as the firm realizes it has replaced costly real estate with costlier logistics, as cars are repeatedly shuttled from sellers to buyers. In the case of the physical car store, the customer takes on the burden of getting to the sales point, and of taking their purchase home later."