Michael Kabcenell, Penske's vice president of retail strategy, said Penske had used many different vendors for online retail that offered some functions, but this product allows a "full online transaction that included everything all the way from signature to contract."
"There's no other off-the-shelf product in the market that allows for full transaction," he said. "Believe me, I've looked."
Penske said the tool has been operational for a few months after being developed with Cox for a year and a half. Pordon declined to provide information on specific sales or how many customers have used the platform, but said its use has grown. It's possible the tool could replace Penske's Preferred Purchase system, but no decision has been made, Pordon said.
"It can get real personalized payments on every single vehicle in the inventory instantaneously," Kabcenell said. "So it makes it really easy for customers to consider their budget and the financing aspect of the transaction all the way through their purchase journey, and not at the very end."
Using Esntial Commerce, customers also can compare four different vehicles, select vehicle protection products, value their trade-in vehicle, get approved for financing, sign paperwork online through e-contracting capabilities and set up delivery at their home or a CarShop location.
Marianne Johnson, Cox's chief product officer, said Penske approached Cox about a partnership as Cox was working to build a digital tool that could both improve the customer experience and ensure dealers could sell profitably online.
"We're both sharing a real pioneering vision about changing the way in which automotive e-commerce can take place, balancing both profitability as well as a great consumer experience," said Kelly Mulroney, Cox's senior vice president of product and engineering. "We mutually agreed that it was important here to ensure that we created a product and partnered on a product that ultimately could scale to serve the whole industry."
Cox said it will be the sole owner of the Esntial Commerce technology. It will begin to expand to other dealership clients beyond Penske starting this fall, Mulroney said. The white-label product will be configurable for other dealerships to launch their own buying platforms that are customized to fit their own branding needs, she said.