Cryptocurrency is still emerging. But more dealerships are beginning to accept it as payment for a vehicle.
Last month, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Mitchell in Kentucky sold a certified pre-owned 2021 Mercedes-Benz S580 to a buyer in Saudi Arabia who had submitted an Internet lead and paid using the ethereum cryptocurrency, said Kevin Frye of Jeff Wyler Automotive Family. Frye heads up marketing for the group, which owns the Fort Mitchell store.
Several days later, AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest new-vehicle retailer, said in a tweet that its Porsche Towson and BMW of Rockville dealerships in Maryland now accept cryptocurrency.
David Muller, a former colleague who covered used vehicles for Automotive News, last year wrote about a few dealership groups that had started to accept cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin and ethereum, and that it could become more common in auto retail.
For Jeff Wyler Automotive Family, cryptocurrency is another way the retailer can offer a positive customer experience, Frye said.
The group started to lay the groundwork for accepting such payment last August and had the mechanics of it in place by February, Frye told me. Jeff Wyler Automotive Family uses BitPay, an app that converts cryptocurrency into U.S. dollars within 24 to 48 hours, he said. The group elected not to hold cryptocurrency on its own balance sheet given the high volatility that can occur in its pricing, he said.
"For us, it's really no different than getting a traditional down payment," Frye said. "It's just the form we're getting it in."
Jeff Wyler Automotive Family said it will accept 12 cryptocurrency forms at its 23 dealerships in three states.
The retailer's first transaction using cryptocurrency came about after Mercedes-Benz of Fort Mitchell notified the Saudi Arabian buyer that it could not hold the vehicle for the seven days it would take for an international wire transfer to clear, Frye said. A sales employee asked the customer whether he had cryptocurrency that could be used to help close the deal, and he did.
"Every important business decision that we make, we ask ourselves this question: Does this make us more consumer-facing?" Frye told me. "And when we apply, 'Does accepting crypto make us more consumer-facing?' it's yes, all day long. It's one more avenue that they can transact with. It's simple, it's safe, it's secure and it's quick."