Lindsay Duffield
“There were quite adamant discussions and arguments with dealers,” Duffield says of early website initiatives.

Auto Dealership Websites, Then and Now

“We were ahead in our thinking,” Lindsay Duffield says of bringing payment calculators and credit applications to BMW dealership websites.

MARINA DEL REY, CA – Most auto dealers today acknowledge the importance of multi-functional websites to spur vehicle sales, but it wasn’t too long ago that some auto retailers balked at what’s expected today.

So says 39-year industry veteran Lindsay Duffield who recalls spearheading a couple of digital initiatives when he worked for BMW in the 1990s.

One of them was a payment calculator, the other an online credit-application function.

“At the time, that was considered radical,” says Duffield, host of the Thought Leadership Summit’s 2018 Automotive Customer Experience conference here. He currently is executive vice president at Sym-Tech Dealer Services, an F&I provider. In addition to his BMW stint, he also was president of Jaguar Land Rover Canada.

“We were ahead in our thinking,” Duffield says of bringing payment calculators and credit applications to BMW dealership websites. “I said to dealers at the time, ‘Customers are coming to BMW’s website, wouldn’t you want them to come to yours, too?’”

Eventually, the consensus was, “Yes.” But, Duffield says: “It is interesting to look back on. There were quite adamant discussions and arguments with dealers as to whether to put anything like that on websites. Now, you see where BMW dealer websites are today.”

Not only are there places for credit applications, “you can submit it electronically and get approval online,” Duffield tells WardsAuto. “People put a lot of effort into buying cars online, so make it easy for them.”

A Cox Automotive survey says 83% of auto consumers prefer at least one online function on a dealership website. Moreover, 85% said they are more likely to buy from a dealership that allows website users to digitally buy a vehicle – even if most people currently don’t opt to fully do that.

AutoTrader, a Cox Automotive brand, recently introduced Accelerate, an enhanced online buying site that includes full financing and F&I educational functions.

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