What trends are on the horizon?
It looks as though this pandemic has probably accelerated technology and digital by maybe five or 10 years or so — somewhere in that magnitude, but it clearly accelerated it. Over a very short period of time, we went from a low percent of digital transactions in our Manheim [auction] business to 100 percent overnight.
So it's those type of examples that you've got to be prepared [for] and you've got to be ahead of the curve. We see that same phenomenon with digital retailing. What I would tell you is that is an area that I think we will clearly be a leader in.
We clearly understand that customers are looking to have a multitude of options when it comes to digital retail, so we may see some customers that want a full turnkey operation, be able to sit at their home, browse, order a car, purchase the car, have it delivered and have a total seamless transaction. We may see other customers use e-commerce to check that car out and then eventually go into the dealership themselves, so we've really focused on an omnichannel approach — meeting the customer in the channels of choice, working with our dealers to make sure that we provide them those areas.
The other areas that I see a lot of trends going on [include] what we call our mobility space. And it's the electric vehicles — the tens of billions of dollars that are going to be spent between now and 2025 by the OEMs is amazing to me, and we really are thoughtful about that process.
What do you think will be Cox's role with electric vehicles?
The electric vehicles and the batteries themselves, we want to play a big role in that. And as we think about cars that have been driven for two or three years coming off lease or people trading them in and going to Manheim, how do we create value? And how do we use data so that our customers that are purchasing those cars through Manheim know the value of that car, which is going to be different than the way we value cars today?
So we do want to understand that battery and what are all the components that go into grading those batteries.
The pandemic had an impact on Cox Automotive last year, including employee furloughs and job cuts. Has the business stabilized?
I feel like it's stabilized. I feel like you're seeing us back to normal. When you're able to come out and make two acquisitions at the beginning of the year, it speaks to the fact that things are moving in a cadence that you want them to. So I think we're running at full speed ahead. The industry is running very hard. We actually have to run faster in certain areas, because as we talked about, this pandemic has created a much deeper focus on the whole digital environment.