Group 1, the country's fourth-largest franchised retailer, will expand its digital retailing efforts to all of its 116 U.S. stores by the end of June, up from 47 locations now, company executives said last week.
"Our goal is to do business when and how our customers want to do business with us," Daryl Kenningham, president of U.S. operations, told analysts.
Group 1's program allows customers to visit a dealership website, select a vehicle, submit an offer, go through the finance-and-insurance process and eventually select whether they want to pick up the car or have it delivered.
"It's a very simple, very-few-clicks process to get all the way through," Kenningham told Automotive News.
The close rate for digital customers is almost double those coming via other means, Kenningham said.
Sonic Automotive Inc. aims to add more lenders to its Digital One-Stop initiative, an online car-buying tool that will allow customers to prequalify for financing on specific vehicles, before launching it, President Jeff Dyke told analysts.
Within the past few weeks, Sonic has made its CarCash smartphone app available for downloads by consumers and even other dealers, Dyke said. The CarCash app gives users a quick vehicle appraisal and purchase offer.
"It should take you three, four, five minutes to appraise your car [and] another three or four or five minutes to get an answer back from our retail trade center," Dyke said.
Sonic, the fifth-largest group in the U.S., is banking on the app to bring in more inventory for its EchoPark brand of standalone used-vehicle stores. Sonic CEO David Smith told Automotive News that CarCash will be "extremely easy" for mom-and-pop dealerships to use to receive trade-in values for their customers and then sell those vehicles to Sonic.
Lithia Motors Inc., the nation's third-largest auto retailer, has invested in used-vehicle startup Shift Technologies and launched an omnichannel pilot for used vehicles at 14 stores in Pittsburgh. Omnichannel refers to a seamless buying experience, whether the consumer shops from a computer, mobile device or in the store. In the Lithia pilot, buyers can shop online, upload their driver's license and insurance cards to complete an online credit application, sell or trade their vehicles and set up home delivery or go to the store for pick-up.
Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer said the system can value 80 percent of vehicles in minutes. "We believe that could be perfected to upwards of high 90 percentile, and really push that into a window that's a matter of seconds rather than minutes," DeBoer told Automotive News.