Death of the car salesperson?

Death of the car salesperson?



Visiting a dealership to buy a car may soon become a thing of the past as online technology and mobile apps streamline the process of selecting, test driving, and financing a vehicle purchase.

In the USA the automotive manufacturing industry is trying to sell more vehicles directly to customers through online sales, despite state-by-state restrictions that prevents brands from competing directly with their existing dealership network.

In February a three-day competition called Hackomotive, sponsored by US car-buying website edmunds.Com, saw a dozen teams, including some car dealers, present their ideas and projects on how to better use technology to ‘seal the deal’.

Seattle company won the grand prize of US$20,000, for a new service called Carcode SMS.

Carcode SMS allows buyers to communicate with dealers by text message, through an app that dealerships can use to respond to sales inquiries. co-founder Nick Gorton formerly worked at his family-owned Chrysler dealership in Michigan, and was one of several dealer-turned entrepreneur types at the event.

“We’ve seen this massive shift in how people shop for cars, looking for answers in real time,” says Gorton. “The rise of the smart phone is particularly disruptive.”

One Hackomotive judge Holly Dudley says that changing the buying model is overdue, and event organisers say there’s an appetite for overhauling the traditional model for buying and selling cars at dealerships.

One business called Carvoyant allows potential buyers to schedule test drives without the dealer needing to be present. After a background check consumers receive a lockbox code to obtain keys to the vehicle they wish to test drive.

A GPS device connected to the vehicle lets the owner remotely monitor its location and speed.

Another dealer-developed website called adds urgency to the process by combining the auction style of eBay with Paypal’s reliability in verifying the title of the vehicle and the funds intended for purchase says Tenessee dealer turned developer, Tim Kelly.

Kelly says the car site addresses the lack of urgency in the business where a customer on the yard says “I’ll think about it” and the salesperson has to push the sale or let it go.

The second-place prize of US$10,000 went to the developers of, who describe their business as ‘Google for cars’. The developers of have built a search engine allowing potential buyers to use keywords such as “midlife crisis” or “soccer mum”.

Disrupting the existing business model of dealerships might see these technological projects encounter legal obstacles in the highly regulated US market, but the competition had a clear message, visiting a dealership, browsing cars and then buying one is now becoming a story from the past.

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