W. Kevin Collins is president of Collins Ford in Louisville and the founder of CarsQuickBuy.com, billed as a “dealer developed” digital sales platform that lets consumers purchase a car from start to finish online.
Its tag line is “at your pace, at your place.” The website features a testimonial video from a customer who used his smart phone to do an entire car deal.
In a Q&A, Collins talks about his career and plans to take his initiative to the next level. Here’s an edited version of the interview.
WardsAuto: What is your automotive background?
Collins: I came up through the parts and services departments, then moved to the sales department at 21 years old. In 1984, after my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I became the executive manager (of the family dealership).
Wards: Why did you develop your own online sales platform?
Collins: The auto industry, since the great recession, has had to self-reflect in areas such as Internet tactics.
This has led to dealers and lead providers assessing their current models and making adaptations. We wanted to be ahead of the curve. Third-party lead providers have been important to dealers. However, we felt it was time to explore a different avenue trying to help consumers, this time further down the purchase funnel. CarsQuickBuy.com was developed to give customers the most cutting edge, transparent and seamless process.
WardsAuto: Do you feel most auto sales will migrate to an online process soon?
Collins: With 80% of consumers doing some Internet and digital shopping or researching already, the online buying process will only continue to grow. However, with an automobile being the second biggest purchase of most individuals’ lives, there is still a lot of merit and comfort in dealing face-to-face. Overall we see 35%- 45% of all buyers will lean towards a complete online car buying process.
WardsAuto: How will a consumer choose you and why is it better than other options on the market right now?
Collins: The beauty of our product is that it was developed through dealer experience, as well as customer feedback. Consumers choose to use CarsQuickBuy.com because it is easy to navigate, self-explainable, quick, convenient and transparent, allowing the customer to be in complete control. Consumers can use this platform on any of their personal devices, and explore the purchase path to their comfort level.
The further they walk themselves down the process, the less time they will be required to spend in the dealership.
WardsAuto: What are some of the highlights of the platform?
Collins: With a great team, we became the first fully transparent online purchasing system, allowing the consumer to not only search the entire inventory of a dealer, but also get upfront pricing, value a trade-in, apply for credit, complete the purchase and schedule delivery entirely online.
WardsAuto: What about the manufacturers, don’t they want to own this space as well?
Collins: It seems that manufacturers are trying to reinvent the wheel by venturing into digital retailing, which could be very detrimental to their business.
If manufacturers were in this space and attempted direct selling, they would not have the resources, the manpower or the customer-service ability.
In the best of times, the relationship between the manufacturers and their dealer bodies is like choreographed dance where everything is in sync and they complement one another. Therefore, although they would like to be in this space, it would have an overall negative impact.
WardsAuto: Recent reports say young buyers perceive a dealer actually retains a 35% profit on a car sale. Why do you feel they have this false perception, and how can you address that misunderstanding with your digital pure play platform?
Collins: To the consumers who hold that perception, it is actually the opposite due to the digital age and the increased competition. Consumers are purchasing at the most competitive prices and lowest margins in history. Large rebates are easily confused by consumers to be unrealistic profit margins for dealers. If dealers made what consumers believed we made, we would all be retired.
WardsAuto: How will you advertise this customer tool?
Collins: Marketing something of this nature, we have found our digital presence is extremely powerful. We have been marketing to our customer base directly via text campaigns and private offers. We have marketing tools ranging from various digital options to informational print articles, as well as traditional television and radio advertising.
WardsAuto: Do consumers like this process?
Collins: Through testimonials and follow-up surveys, the feedback has been off the charts positive. They have expressed that they feel less pressured, more informed and more confident about their purchase decision. It makes the delivery process more enjoyable. When a customer arrives at the store, they not only receive a VIP experience, but they are in and out in as little as 30 minutes.
WardsAuto: Does your dealership still see traditional sales as a top priority?
Collins: Absolutely. We are currently giving onsite consumers the option to choose the process that best fits their needs. We must prepare for what the future may hold, while never taking our eyes off current business.