2020 ALL STAR | DIGITAL RETAIL
Group 1 Automotive Inc.
Under Earl Hesterberg’s leadership, Group 1 Automotive Inc. has successfully adopted an omnichannel retail offering — and it couldn’t have happened soon enough.
Omnichannel retail refers to allowing customers to do business where and when they want — from a mobile device, computer or in store.
AcceleRide, Group 1’s omnichannel retailing platform in the U.S., proved instrumental as the retailer dealt with shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Group 1, ranked No. 4 on Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., launched AcceleRide in the middle of 2019, well ahead of the pandemic that sent some more traditional dealerships scrambling for an online sales option amid lockdowns.
In late March, virtually all of Group 1’s U.S. stores were located in states with some type of shelter-in-place order. Sales departments were closed in some areas, but the AcceleRide platform showed heightened use, the company said.
Meanwhile, Group 1 took significant cost-cutting measures. By late June, overall business had begun to improve.
“We benefited greatly during this time period from the effectiveness of our online vehicle purchasing platform, AcceleRide, as online shopping increased in popularity,” Hesterberg, 67, said as the company announced its second-quarter results.
In that quarter, sales via AcceleRide nearly tripled from the year-earlier period. Group 1 retailed an average of almost 1,000 vehicles per month through the channel. Online service scheduling penetration grew from 25 percent to more than 30 percent.
By the third quarter, the company reported all-time record adjusted net income of $129 million.
Multiple factors led to that result, such as the cost cuts and higher profit margins on new and used vehicles.
But underlying it all was the ability to continue selling vehicles as demand rebounded. The AcceleRide effort proved to have foresight, and Group 1 has continued to adjust and improve it amid changing shopping habits in the U.S.