Asbury Automotive Group Inc. considers its first attempt to grow used-only sales with standalone locations a failed experiment. In 2017, when the last Q auto location closed, executives said the retailer planned to focus its investments on "alternative routes to market" that will deliver higher profits.
Clicklane, Asbury's omnichannel solution that formally launched last week, aims to tackle the central problem it faced with physical used-only stores: securing finance offers for credit-challenged consumers. Omnichannel refers to offering a seamless buying experience to consumers whether they shop online, in store or both.
The result could catapult the retailer's used-vehicle sales strategy into new markets while simultaneously improving the digital retailing environment for consumers in all credit tiers.
Lacking the lending infrastructure of a franchised store, Asbury's Q auto standalone used-only locations struggled to offer financing support to subprime customers, CEO David Hult told Automotive News last week.
"Most folks that are struggling financially and have very poor credit scores don't feel comfortable walking into a franchise dealer because they think they're going to get turned down. So they look for a used-car lot. They look for subprime lending," he said. "No one knew what Q auto was."
A host of Clicklane features, including penny-perfect payoff information and VIN-specific finance-and-insurance offerings, create a purchasing environment that's friendlier to consumers with less-than-perfect credit. It also increases the likelihood that they will be approved, allowing the group to scale used-vehicle sales beyond what the physical stores were capable of doing.
Subprime buyers also make up just 10 percent of the retailer's customer base, Hult said. Without substantial investment in the Q auto line, growing that customer base would be too cost-intensive.
"We thought omnichannel was a more flexible and pliable approach," Hult said.
Push Start, Asbury's initial digital retailing platform, had a consortium of auto lenders that consumers could connect with on the site. That loan marketplace gravitated to Clicklane and now includes 30 lenders. The more lenders available, the more likely a consumer will find a desirable lender offer.
The platform also includes the ability to upload stipulations to reduce time to fund for credit-crunched customers, said Asbury Chief Marketing Officer Miran Mirac.
Another valuable feature is per diem pricing. When a customer selects the lender they plan to work with, the Clicklane program will ask if the customer is still making payments on their current vehicle. Using the VIN, the system determines the customer's payoff date and adds 12 days of interest to it, Mirac said. This ensures that no matter when the customer returns to the platform, their offer will be consistent.
"The system is a working and live field, so if they come back five days later or 15 days later, that information would be updated based on when they last came into the tool," he said.
Addressing the financing concerns of customers most challenged in a digital retail environment is a massive stride for the retail industry. Tackling ease of use and experience for those customers will improve the process for all consumers, which in turn will make digital retailing programs more successful for dealerships. Competing with the ease of use of other digital platforms such as Carvana and Vroom is more likely once digital channels offer robust F&I opportunities.