If digital retailing and improving the customer experience were the talk of the NADA Show last month, then dealership management systems were a close second.
DealerSocket and Auto/Mate had separate booths on the show floor, but the distance didn't prevent the companies from sharing their joint story days after DealerSocket — a dealership technology company — finalized its purchase of Auto/Mate.
This month's Retail Technology page provides more details about how the combined company is working to link Auto/Mate's franchised DMS with the rest of DealerSocket's software tools to offer dealerships what the company calls a seamless, full-platform solution.
"When the acquisition was announced, my phone basically blows up from all the dealers calling me with, 'Congratulations, this is really the right company that you should be with. But are they going to change it?' " Auto/Mate CEO Mike Esposito told my colleagues and me during an interview at the show.
The companies insist they won't.
Meanwhile, CDK Global Inc., one of the giants in the franchised DMS space, with more than 8,900 automotive dealerships as DMS customers, has been working to alleviate the frustrations of its dealership clients over both the level of support services CDK provides and its complex billing practices. CDK is simplifying its invoices and investing heavily — more than $300 million over the company's next three fiscal years, into 2022 — to improve the experience.
"Working with CDK will continue to get easier," CEO Brian Krzanich wrote in a letter to dealers released at the show.
And a startup generated buzz on the show floor: Tekion, a new cloud-based DMS that has financial backing from venture capital companies and traditional automakers, including Gen- eral Motors and the Renault- Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. It's led by Jay Vijayan, Tesla's former chief information officer.
Vijayan says he envisions Tekion as "the trailblazer for enabling the modernization of the entire customer journey and providing the best experiences, period."
Time will tell. One thing's clear now: The DMS is the heart of a dealership's operations, and companies are working hard to earn it.