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Commentary & Voices

Tearing Down Car-Buying Obstacles for Consumers Will Take Collaboration


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By Jessica Stafford, senior vice president of Consumer Solutions at Cox Automotive

I had the pleasure of representing Cox Automotive Inc. on a recent Automotive Press Association panel on my favorite topic – the state of auto retail! I was joined by Eric Frehsee, president of Tamaroff Auto Group, and Matt VanDyke, president of Shift Digital, and we discussed how fostering deeper collaboration between OEMs and auto retailers is key to delivering an optimal consumer experience. All of us strongly agreed on one thing – for that to happen, obstacles in the car-buying experience must be torn down.

Purchasing a vehicle can still be a complicated and overwhelming experience. Actually, it is three experiences: trading in a car, getting a loan and buying a car. The entire automotive ecosystem – dealers, OEMs, suppliers, and technology companies – must work together to help make all three of these experiences easier, simpler, and more transparent, ultimately enhancing the car buyer journey. The question is where to start? At Cox Automotive, we believe the jump-off point is giving shoppers what they want when they need it.

Today’s buyers are savvier than ever thanks to the wealth of information on the internet. They are also more accustomed to digital shopping experiences that are both easy to navigate and instantly gratifying. The traditional process, which could mean many hours spent at a dealership rehashing work already done online, has become archaic. To meet today’s consumer expectations, we must make systems work more seamlessly between online and in-person experiences. It’s also important to remember that no two buyers are the same, so the purchasing process should be flexible enough for everyone.

A year ago, the number one thing on dealers’ minds was the struggle for inventory. Today, according to our Q2 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI), they are more concerned with the economy and interest rates. The fear is that what was an inventory problem for the industry could become a demand problem. If demand slows, it’s paramount for the industry to drive efficiency across the car buying process. For example, we need systems that help seamlessly introduce F&I products and make loan approvals much more approachable and easier to understand and navigate. 

As consumers spend more time online, they still are relying on brick-and-mortar stores for information and support during ownership, which is why greater collaboration between online and in-instore is needed. Operationally, most dealers and OEMS still handle in-store and online sales as two distinct channels. Historically, the dealer controlled the in-store experience, and the OEM has been trying to control the online experience. This is no longer viable in today’s market. Collaboration and a cohesive on- and offline experience will give consumers more of what they are looking for – a seamless car buying experience that they can get excited about!

I look forward to continuing to listen and lead the charge to put all the data, technology and people power of Cox Automotive toward greater collaboration and happier car buyers.

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