A few years ago, the key to my Jeep Liberty SUV broke inside the ignition switch. The repair was going to cost hundreds of dollars, and the replacement part had to be shipped to Michigan from another state.
I'd only had the vehicle for a few years, and it was in reasonably good shape. But I decided it was more valuable to me at the time to trade it in for a newer used SUV. I picked the 2011 Liberty I still drive today by browsing the website of one of the Jeep dealerships near my house, going to the store and choosing from the vehicles sitting on the lot that day.
No shopping around. No comparing prices, features or mileage. Aside from looking at the dealership's inventory, the Internet barely registered in my purchase decision.
Granted, I needed to make a quick decision, since I was without a driveable vehicle. But in retrospect, I'm surprised at how little online research I did, given how much I buy online in nearly every other aspect of my life.
I'd rather order clothing online and send back what doesn't fit than try it on in a store. Dog food arrives in an Amazon box on my porch once a month. I bought my first house two years ago — the most expensive purchase I've ever made — after spending months browsing listings on Zillow, studying comparable prices and deciding which features I needed and which ones I didn't.
It only stands to reason that I'd do the same with a vehicle. (Not anytime soon, though. My Liberty is fully paid off.)
I'm about two months in to my new beat at Automotive News, covering dealerships and retail technology, and am quickly learning how much the car-buying experience is going digital. I'm taking over the retail technology beat from David Muller, who will continue to report on dealers and auto retail with a focus on used vehicles. Regular readers of the Retail Technology newsletter will continue to hear from him from time to time — technology and online retailing are increasingly important on that side of the industry, too.
Help me cover this transformation. Have tips, story ideas or trends that I need to know? Send them my way: [email protected].
I'm looking forward to getting started.