Some critics squawked a few years ago when General Motors introduced its Shop-Click-Drive online shopping program.
Detractors feared GM was trying to elbow its way between customers and dealers, something GM adamantly (and credibly) denied. But it took some explaining and clarifying for the automaker to allay fears.
Today, Hyundai is making it perfectly clear to its U.S. dealers that they play a pivotal role as the South Korean automaker goes national with its Shopper Assurance online initiative.
“Dealers are core and central to Shopper Assurance,” Dean Evans, Hyundai Motor America’s chief marketing officer, says at the Chicago Auto Show.
The national rollout is under way after Hyundai tested the program in Miami, Orlando, Dallas and Houston.
“The response exceeded expectations,” he says. “Ninety-four percent of users we surveyed said they either loved or liked the program. “Fifty-six percent said it influenced their decision to buy a Hyundai over another brand.”
He calls it a “win-win” for dealers and customers, and presumably the automaker fits in there somewhere.
In addition to shopping and checking out dealer inventory online (functions virtually every dealership website offers), Shopper Assurance allows users to see posted transparent pricing that Evans describes as “MSRP minus rebates and dealer discounts.”
The program allows shoppers to schedule a test drive with the option of having the demo drive taken to their home or place of work. Shopper Assurance users can get trade-in values, calculate monthly payments, get their credit scores and apply for financing.
If they purchase a vehicle, it comes with a 3-day money-back guarantee.
A recent Cox Automotive study says 87% of consumers want to take steps online toward buying a car and 73% are more likely to buy from a dealership if they can start the buying process online.
Cox provides information and digital services to dealers, including software that expedites and expands online buying much like Shopper Assurance is intended to do.
“We want to get in on this revolution,” Evans says, adding Hyundai is “interested in fixing the current existing sales and buying process today. That’s what Shopper Assurance is about.”
WardsAuto spoke with him at the Chicago Auto Show about the digital initiative.
WardsAuto: Cox Automotive has its version of Shopper Assurance, allowing consumers to shop, negotiate, get trade in values and apply for financing online. Even individual dealerships, such as Paragon Honda and Acura in New York, have similar online functionality.
Were those programs the impetus for you, or how did Shopper Assurance come about?
Evans: There’s definitely the software level of these offerings. You can have sites built, take more information, price cars and have more of the transaction online.
It obviously helps with the transparent part and streamlines purchases. We’ve designed Shopper Assurance so more of that paperwork and negotiation is done upfront so that when customers hit the showroom, they hopefully will go to the demo-ride part of the process.
We would like our retailers spending more time demonstrating the vehicle. Today’s cars are computers on wheels. We need to spend more time on the delivery and test drive explaining how various technologies work and less time on the negotiations.
WardsAuto: Demographically, who is more likely to use this service?
Evans: Millennials have taken to this retail revolution faster than any other age segment. It’s easy to say Millennials should be attracted to it. But in our pilot markets, the general (public) is eating it up. Everyone thinks a better car-buying experience is something they need. This is our answer to that.
WardsAuto: Any pushback from dealers?
Evans: We obviously have the normal set of “How does this work, how is this different?” But the Hyundai dealers have been great throughout the process, especially the pilot dealers. Dealers are excited about the positive customer feedback that has been off the charts.
When retailers see those numbers, and see sales going up in those markets, they’re all on board.
WardsAuto: Is every Hyundai dealer going to have it?
Evans: Our goal is to have the majority of our 821 dealers onboard real soon.