Down the road, SmartPath will tie in used inventory online, allow dealers to more easily sell parts over the Internet and schedule service.
"It's really an effort to better connect the digital world with what's going on in our stores and providing a lot more flexibility for the guests to transact with us the way they would like," said Bill Fay, senior vice president for automotive operations at Toyota Motor North America. "It's a changing retail environment and a generational shift that's really put us on point and has been the spark for a lot of this work that we've been doing."
SmartPath was developed internally by Toyota Motor North America for over two years and has been in beta testing in a half-dozen U.S. dealerships, some for more than a year. The software suite integrates with the dealers' dealership management system and customer relationship management software to change the way retailers "prepare, promote and present" their inventory for sale, Fay explained. Early development work has concentrated on streamlining the new-vehicle sales process and incorporating finance and insurance.
Toyota expects to expand SmartPath beyond the pilot phase beginning in 2020. The company agreed last month to install SmartPath in a seventh U.S. dealership. The seven pilot dealerships were chosen regionally based on their performance and on what DMS and CRM software they run to provide the broadest test bed, said Tim Bliss, Toyota Motor North America's general manager for what it calls retail transformation.
The overriding idea behind SmartPath is transparency and collaboration between the dealership and the consumer, Bliss said, allowing the consumer to save time — and potential consternation — in the dealership by essentially doing much of the work of buying a new vehicle at home.
"When the consumer comes in, they provide their name, then the dealer is able to pull up the customer's name through the CRM integration ... and can see the robust lead information and will show what the consumer has done online, what vehicle they selected, what type of payment they are interested in, whether they have a trade — all of that information the consumer did online," Bliss explained. "The dealer is now able to see where the customer left off and pick up right from there."