Once the process is refined, Hill said, elements of it could make their way to the group's Nissan stores. But for now, he said, the group is working to differentiate iRide as a standalone franchise, one that offers an experience that could attract customers who otherwise might seek out used-vehicle retailers CarMax or Carvana.
"This is a 100 percent work in process. There is no defined, definitive way to digitally retail vehicles. So we're really just learning it as we go at our iRide store," Hill said. "This is where all dealerships are going to go in the next five to 10 years. We just want the head start."
Hill, 43, spoke with Staff Reporter Lindsay VanHulle about the process of starting a digital, used-only operation. Here are edited excerpts.
On creating a digital sales experience:
We wanted to create a completely digital system to where somebody can — if they choose that they want the Carvana experience, they want to buy a vehicle 100 percent online, and they don't want to have to deal with a salesperson, and they want to have a vehicle shipped to their house — that they can.
But most people really just want to know a little bit of that information ahead of time and still be able to come down and test drive the vehicle before they make that final decision. That's how we've been able to utilize our digital retailing tool the most. They can go out and research as much information as they want to on our website. They can get their interest rate, their payments, play with their down payment, all their taxes and fees. Everything is just transparent, and then they can make that final decision when they come in, or they can have it delivered to their house.
If a customer is on our website at 1 [a.m.] and they're on our digital retailing tool, they can work their own deal. But that's the exact same place we're going to take the customer when we get them into our showroom floor. We're not forcing customers to give us their credit information before we show them numbers. As a matter of fact, as soon as the salesperson comes back from the test drive, they sit them down and they put the customer on our website and the customer works their own deal.
On how the Internet has and will shape auto retailing:
All it really did was make the dealership process more transparent when the Internet came out 20 years ago because now somebody can see what the invoice is. They can contact multiple dealerships and find out the prices of different cars. It didn't take away the salesperson. It didn't prevent dealerships from selling cars. It just really forced dealerships to be more transparent with the pricing because the information's out there. And with digital retailing, we strongly feel that this is going to be the next thing.