I have used the term “accelerated evolution” to describe clear trends in the retail car business happening pre-pandemic that were kicked into high gear because of COVID-19.
The most obvious examples are online and “omni-channel” vehicle sales on one side of the business and “concierge” or vehicle pick-up and delivery on all sides – that is, sales and fixed ops.
More to the point, this vehicle concierge service is a necessity to do business today prompted by the pandemic. But when we finally are devoid of stay-at-home rules or virus scares, does anyone really see things going back to the old ways?
I don’t think so, as customer convenience is always an increasing bar, or as Jeff Bezos of Amazon has said, his permanent mission as a company is to increase service and decrease prices, as he is sure 10 years from now no one will ask for increased prices or a less convenient way of doing business.
“Dealership usage of Uber for Business to provide customer mobility increased in 2020 despite the pandemic, but we also saw hundreds of service departments begin to use Uber to power their concierge vehicle pick-up and drop off programs,” says Jim Bauman, the automotive partnerships lead for Uber for Business and a long-time auto industry veteran.
“They’ve found it to be an efficient, cost-effective way to offer this critical service, while avoiding headaches and risks like chase cars, flatbeds or other expensive alternatives,” says Bauman (pictured below, left).
Indeed, some dealerships even have gone so far as to include flatbed trucks and set up a fully staffed department to schedule all vehicle deliveries and pick-ups, as noted recently at Sellers Auto Group in suburban Detroit.
Door-to-door service, even with delivery trucks, now is not unique to just the Carvanas of the world but is another accelerating trend in the dealer world.
“Although we’ve already made meaningful inroads, I think we have only just begun to offer customized, on-demand transportation solutions to automotive retailers and the greater automotive industry,” says Elena Ciccotelli (pictured below, left), automotive partnerships director for Lyft Business.
There are clear advantages beyond just customer centric convenience.
Ed Roberts, fixed operations director at Bozard Ford-Lincoln in St. Augustine, FL, has made the pick-up and delivery service complimentary for Lincoln and an additional option of convenience for their Ford customers.
He has found it adds to the bottom line, improves customer satisfaction and drives retention, “A customer at home, not under any time constraints, is more inclined to authorize additional needed services that are found. Showing sells!” says Roberts (pictured below, left).
“Also, pick-up and delivery can be used to manage and streamline workflow throughout the day, leading to more productivity,” he says.
Leveraging pick-up and delivery, with a variety of options, seems as close to a sure bet – today and post-pandemic – as you can get to a sustaining trend. This means even more creative ways to use new transportation and same-day delivery options for service.
Having an additional tool in the tool box soon will create the opportunity to add pick-up and delivery opportunities for body repair and parts delivery.
Interesting to note, when Amazon first offered their “Amazon Prime” annual subscription with free two-day delivery “all you can eat” option, even sophisticated stock analysts thought they were crazy and it would never pay off.
Now it’s one of their competitive advantages and proved to be savvy financial move. Perhaps dealership fixed ops pick-up and delivery is not only a customer-focused necessity now but adds substantially to the bottom line in the big picture.
John F. Possumato is an attorney and founder of DriveItAway, which creates platforms and applications enabling automotive retailers to offer new app-enabled mobility options, including remote rental and rent-to-purchase.