Auto Industry Change Is Brewing, and It’s Often Volcanic

This is part two of a three-part series on how perceptions in the auto industry have changed, what it means and where it’s headed.

Ryan Gerardi

September 19, 2019

3 Min Read
Ryan Gerardi
Wards Industry Voices contributor Ryan Gerardi

As the 21st century entered into its second decade, social media began sowing the seeds for a new currency: data.

Big data. Remember that term? And with it came attribution, the thing that helps people see and know their advertising ROI.

It was now online engagement and vehicle-detail-page views that sold cars, not leads, once called “ups.”

AI and Machine Learning

All this data and attribution quickly became too much for the human brain to handle, and so we needed machines to help out. Artificial intelligence and machine learning emerged as new buzz terms to help sell cars. Everyone was so relieved.

But ready to lose his mind was Larry, a dealership’s digital pioneer and early blogger.

To him, nothing was changing. The industry was just throwing more data and technology into a system, a process really, where people buy cars from people.

Larry’s dealership wasn’t selling more cars, more efficiently and more profitably. If anything, it was the opposite. He was spending more time and money selling the same number of cars, less profitably.

Digital Retailing

Imagine how excited Larry got when digital retailing came around. He especially liked the promise that it would sell cars to people who don’t want to go to a dealership. This seemed like an ideal future for Larry. Not.

By this time, he had lost touch with how it all began. He forgot why he got into the car business and started blogging in the first place. And he saw no way out. Larry was in the car business for life as far as he was concerned.

Meanwhile, innovation was accelerating exponentially in other parts of the auto business and in other industries.

● Amazon went from being an online bookseller, to an online retailer of just about everything, to a voice-commanded instant-gratification concierge system that hosted and streamed more than half the world’s information in the clouds. Will Amazon sell cars soon, too?

● Uber introduced the idea of ride-hailing only to expand to an on-demand delivery system. Will Uber and Lyft eradicate vehicle ownership?

● Apple went from being a computer company to a luxury fashion-tech brand. Apple is trying to get into the car business.

● Tesla flipped the script on automakers and the franchise dealer system.

● Automakers began re-inventing themselves as mobilIty companies. Tech companies started trying to become automakers.

This was real innovation, Larry realized. This was exciting. It appeared like lava on his doorstep. Some posed no threat at all. But the emergence of all this real innovation got Larry’s blood boiling, in a good way. Larry began to feel alive again.

As the volcano of emergence fissured, industry pundits began to roar with rhetoric, speculation and prophesy. Experts and thought leaders from all corners of the industry began crawling out of the woodwork, streaming live on Facebook, creating memes for their Facebook groups, starting podcasts, shows and blogs.

Suddenly, Larry realized, the volcano was erupting. And if Larry didn’t have a plan, he might be swallowed by the lava.

(Come back for this series’ final piece which runs soon.)  

Ryan Gerardi is a 20-year industry veteran who has worked with several tech startups, including HomeNet, HookLogic, and SOCIALDEALER. He heads AutoConversion, a live streaming network, and is executive producer of the AutoConverse podcast. His company website is

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