Cox Automotive Australia gears up for online selling

26 Apr 2017

The days of schlepping to and from auto dealerships in search of your next car are numbered, as Cox Automotive Australia, parent company of auto site CarsGuide, gears up to implement a predominantly online-only car-buying experience.

In this vision for the future, people will be able to research, book test drives, and ultimately complete the acquisition of a new car entirely online, in what Cox Automotive’s global chief executive Sandy Schwartz described as a “very seamless, very elegant” buying experience.

That’s not to say car dealerships will be eliminated — quite the contrary, they could see their role expanded to a concierge-type service of bringing cars to potential buyers. But, they will need to adapt to a way of selling that embraces the internet and can adapt to a smooth “online-offline-online” sales model.

Sandy Schwartz, global chief executive of Cox Automotive, will be keynote speaker at AutosPlus conference in London later this year.

In particular, Schwartz said he wants to eliminate the current process of buying a car where, no matter how informed the buyer is, they’re still subjected to a sales pitch from a dealer about a car they’re either not interested in, or already know about.

“In the U.S., we have research that tells us, after 90 minutes in the dealership, the buyer, the consumer, gets very frustrated. They just don’t want to spend that much time there,” Schwartz told us.

“They know they’ve got to learn about the car, learn about the technology. Some people want to do a little bit of bargaining, not everybody wants one price, but I think that a lot of it — the application [for finance], if you have to submit an application for registration — a lot of it can be done on your tablet, it can be done on your phone, it can be done on your computer.”

The process of buying a new car still remains shrouded in mystery. It’s only been in the last few years that buyers could find ballpark prices for new-model cars online, and usually only if they agree to hand over their contact details to a dealer — who’ll inevitably try to sell that car to them, even if they’re not at the purchasing stage yet.

That’s made researching and comparing cars a long, difficult and tiresome process, and it’s something that Schwartz, who’ll be attending the AutosPlus conference in London as a keynote speaker later this year, wants to change.

“Car buyers want transparency. They don’t want to be — and I’m not saying all car dealers do this — but they don’t want to be pressured, they don’t want to go through this long dance,” he said.

“Overall transparency is a good thing. The more you can do online — but when you walk in [to the dealership] there has to be a seamless continuation. You can’t have to start over.”

Schwartz said his ultimate “dream” for how the car-buying process would work, involves the buyer being able to start the process online, whether that’s researching models and prices, filling out paperwork for a loan, starting the process of selling or trading in their existing car, and then being able to reserve the cars they want to test drive — or even better, have the dealers bring the cars to you.

“We’re looking at how we can draw the whole picture. There are a million things we can do, and if we try to do them all, we won’t do them well, but we’re in this for the long haul.

“This is a longterm play — we do have to move fast, because the world’s moving fast — and I don’t expect to have the ecosystem a year from now or even two years from now, but we’ll have a roadmap.

“All of those pieces are in play, and we know, again, that they’re not going to happen tomorrow. But … is CarsGuide the platform? I think absolutely it is.”

Cox Automotive Australia operates CarsGuide, as well as Manheim Auctions and Dealer Solutions. Cox Automotive, the auto arm of the American media and automotive company Cox Enterprises, owns 70 percent of Cox Automotive Australia, with the remaining 30 percent owned by DealerMotive, a consortium of approximately 60 car dealers in Australia.

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Angela Hawksford

Angela is a writer and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. She has extensive knowledge of the Australian real estate industry, having started her career in real estate advertising at News Limited newspapers, where she worked across a number of different mastheads in Sydney. She s also worked in television, magazines and online, and regularly contributes feature articles to The Sydney Morning Herald, MiNDFOOD and The Newcastle Herald. Angela also works as a content writer, creating written content for a number of SMEs across an array of industries, including real estate, education, technology and digital media.