Can Test Drives Be More Like ZipCars?


On February 27-28, 2013, Edmunds.com is hosting Hackomotive, an event open to anyone with an interest in changing the way cars are bought and sold. Participants will form teams to address a particular issue within the car-buying process and then develop a prototype to solve the problem. At the end of the second day, teams will present their prototypes to a panel of judges, who will award the winning team $10,000. The New York Times' Michael Zimbalist will serve as one of the judges. Below are some of his insights as he awaits the event.

  1. How broken is the car shopping experience in your view and why?
    It's less broken than it was 20 years ago, but it is still pretty broken. People feel anxiety walking into a showroom. The approach of the salesperson brings palpitations. You're never really sure you're getting the whole story from them.
  2. Have you or someone you know had a bad car shopping experience? Could you tell that story?
    Years ago, I tried to buy a Honda Civic when it was an extremely popular, newly updated car. For close to a year, I interacted regularly with a dealer who told me that he'd have a car for me next week. It never came. Whenever they reach for their manifest to see what's coming in the next shipment, you realize you don't have all the information you need.
  3. What does an ideal car shopping experience look like to you?
    All online, no human salesperson involved. In an ideal scenario, test drives are like Zipcars — you tell the seller which car you want, and they tell you where to go to get it so you can check it out without sales pressure.
  4. What would you like to see come out of the Hackomotive event?
    The teams should be prepared to deliver some really great ideas for disruptive innovation in the process of buying and selling new and used cars. The output should be something that people can really use the next time they buy a car.
  5. Any words of advice for the participants?
    Be bold.
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