Reimagining the Car Shopping Experience


On February 27-28, 2013, Edmunds.com is hosting Hackomotive, a two-day challenge that focuses on re-imagining the car shopping experience by bringing together consumers, dealers, manufacturers, designers and technologists to shatter the status quo. In providing this creative, collaborative platform for groups of intellectually diverse thinkers, the company's goal is to generate a surge of bold and innovative new ideas. A panel of judges will then evaluate the proposed solutions to determine the winners. Edmunds.com Vice Chairman Jeremy Anwyl 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?
    While it's a lot better than it used to be, there are still dealers whose success depends on the ability to control and manipulate consumers.

    Things are better because information is much more freely available. Consumers no longer have to go to dealerships to pick up brochures or rely on the salespeople for answers.

    However, when you put car-buying in the context of other retail experiences (books, electronics, travel, etc) it still falls short. Think about Amazon as a benchmark where essentially every aspect of a transaction is instantly available. Car shoppers can't look at their current or previous deals online. They can't check on the progress of a car they ordered or on the status of a vehicle in for repair.

    Buying a car today is a set of experiences that aren't integrated. Consumers are forced to waste a lot of time starting over at many points in the process, and they feel frustrated because it's hard to get straight answers.

    The auto industry needs to continue to push toward by presenting consumers with complete and integrated experiences geared toward efficiency and tailored to each customer. Perhaps most vitally, it needs to keep up with — or even set — the pace in redefining excellence in retail, and be favorably compared across industries.
  2. Have you or someone you know had a bad car shopping experience? Could you tell that story?
    A friend of mine had a really bad experience. She went into the dealership to window shop with the intention of ultimately financing a new car. The dealer quickly pushed her into a five-year lease (which is about two years longer than we recommend at Edmunds.com.) She had negotiated a purchase price but the salesperson "capped" the deal at 105 percent of sticker price. In the F&I office she was sold three different warranties after it was strongly implied to her that buying them was a condition of getting the lease approved. This probably added about $3000 profit to the deal. The next day, my friend told people about her purchase and their reaction to the story revealed to her that that she had made some big mistakes under the dealership's pressure. Instead of feeling good about her new car, she felt terrible, and wanted to unwind the deal. Luckily for her, she lives in California where you can cancel warranties pretty easily, so she did that. Since she had built the warranties into her monthly payment, the whole deal had to be redone and that gave her a second chance. She was very lucky in the end.
  3. What does an ideal car shopping experience look like to you?
    The benchmark is actually being established by the integrated shopping experience on Amazon: the seamlessness, the efficiency, the ease, the fun.
  4. What would you like to see come out of the Hackomotive event?
    Today it is common for dealers, squeezed on profitability by more freely available pricing information, to develop a sales price that is low but then to develop an array of products that they have to sell to make up the difference. I'd like to see teams explore how a dealer can create credibility for pricing for key components of the deal (new car price, trade in price, financing) so that consumers feel that they are getting a good value for each as a standalone.
  5. Any words of advice for the participants?
    Look to other industries for solutions and inspiration. We can't be satisfied with achieving greatness in our own industry. We have to aim beyond that. Buying a car is different from other purchases, but not that different. If anything, the opportunity is greater because the car purchase is more complex.

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