The past year brought about a significant acceleration in digital transformation – and this trend was particularly true in the automotive industry as the car buying process shifted online, leading to unprecedented levels of customer satisfaction.
Registration and titling were at the forefront of this revolution. The clear winners thus far include customers, dealerships and state departments of motor vehicles (DMV).
For customers, the move to online processing resulted in increased levels of buyer satisfaction, with 72% indicating they were highly satisfied with the overall shopping experience – the highest rate of all time, according to the 2021 Cox Automotive Digitization of End-to-End Retailing Study.
This contentment was attributed mostly to the time savings and added convenience of completing more of that car buying process online, instead of coming into the dealership to do it in person.
Historically, titling and registration has been a manual, paper-intensive process, varying from state to state based on individual DMV regulations. Many auto retail laws and regulations were written in the 1950s or 1960s, long before the development of internet, e-commerce or digital documentation abilities.
Out of necessity, the pandemic has pushed forward many digital processes that may not have been previously prioritized. As a result, we’ve seen a rapid increase in adoption of electronic registration and title processing, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
The merits of this digital transformation aren’t lost on dealerships. A survey by Cox Automotive found 84% of franchise dealers feel customers will complete more of their vehicle purchase process online than in the past, and almost as many, 80%, plan to increase their digital processes in the next two years.
One reason is that with the shift to electronic registration and titling, the current thinking is that it will become easier to field requests from across state borders. Digital capabilities from both dealerships and DMVs will allow consumers to seamlessly purchase vehicles from their own state or another state.
This trend is anticipated to continue as customers get accustomed to shopping for vehicles online and expect more automated purchasing options. In fact, 25% of dealers report an increase in out-of-state buyer activity, based on Dealertrack credit application data between December 2019 and February 2020, comparing the data to those who did and did not adopt digital retailing.
More than 30 states now allow electronic registration and titling, and all 50 states allow for the electronic transfer of titles (paper and ELT) without having to personally go into the DMV. This eliminates the need for consumers to make a special trip to overburdened DMV offices and saves dealerships from making regular trips as well.
Additional states are accelerating this digital trend by introducing legislation to either allow electronic registration and titling or to make online processing easier and legal. A pending New Jersey bill, for example, authorizes dealers to sell vehicles online and to use electronic signatures for any document requiring registration and titling. A California bill would allow digital signatures on motor vehicle leases and sales contracts. And there’s more than a handful of other states with bills in the works.
It is critical for dealerships operating in states that allow digital titling and registration to take full advantage of these opportunities. Not every state is progressing at the same rate, but the future is clear: Digitally enhanced registration and title processes are here to stay, which benefits everyone along the car buying process.
Kait Gavin (pictured above, left) is vice president of Dealertrack Registration and Title Solutions.