My colleague John Huetter wrote last week about the rise in e-contracting as more vehicle purchases are made using digital paperwork.
It reminded me of a story I wrote in mid-2020, when we were still in the midst of early pandemic uncertainty and in need of contactless ways to do business while staying physically apart.
At the time, Joseph Agresta of Benzel-Busch Motor Car Corp., with franchised dealerships in New York and New Jersey, told me his group had come up with a strategy that involved spraying Lysol on paper contracts and sealing them in a plastic bag before passing them back and forth with a buyer.
"That's not really a great experience for anybody," Agresta told me for the story, which published in June 2020. "It's not how we should be doing business in today's age with the technology we have."
While early strategies to limit transmission of the coronavirus, from stay-at-home orders to social distancing and Lysol spray-downs, have largely ended, many contactless ways of doing business, particularly digital ones, have stuck around.
While several retail technology software providers had already enabled electronic contracting, the practice generally required a consumer to sign digitally at the dealership. The pandemic prompted some companies to increase their remote e-contracting capabilities so that a consumer could sign digitally from anywhere. The thinking at the time was that the technology would make vehicle transactions even more convenient once the pandemic ended.
So the recent finding by information and software provider Wolters Kluwer that a third of all new- and used-vehicle financing transactions last year involved an electronic contract appears to be in keeping with that projection.
More states, too, have loosened regulations to allow electronic signatures on car deals, reducing the need for a customer to sign paper with wet ink.
All of that suggests that the momentum around e-contracting is poised to continue.