Sonic Automotive Inc. late next month will pilot an online car-buying tool that will allow customers to prequalify for financing on specific vehicles. The tool, being developed in partnership with Capital One, will start with one or two lenders and add more.
The tool, tentatively called Digital One Stop, will allow customers of Sonic's used-only EchoPark store in New Braunfels, Texas, 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, said David Jezierny, vice president of application development for Sonic and EchoPark.
Jezierny said the technology and tool will quickly give customers options. The prequalification includes only a soft pull of a customer's credit.
"This isn't a 'probably you qualify,' " Jezierny told Automotive News. "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."
Sonic hopes to roll the tool out across the EchoPark footprint, which now includes seven stores, and bring it to a Sonic new-car dealership in a similar pilot, he said. In the future, the company hopes to incorporate a way for customers to pay down payments over the Internet, Jezierny said.
The dealership group has been working on the technology with Capital One for several months. Capital One also will be able to take the completed tool and offer it to other dealerships to use, Jezierny said.
"We're always working to enhance the experience for our dealer partners," a Capital One spokesperson wrote in an email, while declining to comment further.