Northern California has an invigorating optimism. The Bay Area is chockful of people who seem to think they can fix all of our problems -- and earn a billion dollars -- with some zeroes and ones.
As we gather in a place where multiple teams are trying to build robots that can drive cars among traffic lights and SUVs and pedestrians and deer crossing, it feels like someone ought to be able to write a program that lets people buy cars online as easily as they do TVs and shoes.
But buying a car simply is more complicated -- framed by a century of laws layered upon each other -- and a much bigger purchase than a pair of Cole Haans. So it's OK if the process takes longer than a pizza delivery.
At the Automotive News Retail Forum: NADA on Thursday, Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia questioned whether a pure online-only transaction is really the right goal. He called it a tool-set point of view, rather than a customer point of view.
I want to quibble a bit, because I think consumers do want to be able to buy cars with just a few clicks online. But they also want financing and help learning the technology. They'd probably like the cars to be free and self-cleaning. People, right?
Garcia's point, though, was spot-on. It's up to retailers -- and the people who write code -- to help more people feel less dread about buying their next auto.
There's been great progress on transparency and convenience. Keep pushing, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. People are still going to question whether they're getting a fair deal, and it's only true customer service -- through technology and in-person -- that gives comfort and inspires loyalty.