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The Way Forward: Strategies To Get To The Other Side

Dear Friends:

I hope you are staying safe and healthy, and taking some time to reflect on the many challenges facing our country. And while that would be enough these days, I also hope your business is picking up and you can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the indicators we watch closely have turned positive, including shopping visits and leads, credit applications submitted and wholesale check ins and sales.

Cox Automotive has been able to do a bunch of things to help our partners in the industry survive the initial shock from the pandemic and now it is time to turn our attention to the road ahead. Our best minds have been imagining the “next normal” for the auto industry and we’re beginning to see what will be necessary to thrive post-pandemic — a collection of new and updated strategies we’re calling The Way Forward. The goal is the same as it has always been: to sell more cars, more efficiently than ever before. And our pledge to help you do that has never been stronger.

Here are just a few of the things we’ve learned recently, been reminded of during this crisis, or believe might be ahead in the coming months and beyond:

We’re all in this together. There has been a tremendous amount of shared sacrifice in our industry and across the country and economy. We’ve done our best to help where we can — including bill credits, deferred payments and hibernating accounts — and we’ve gotten nothing but appreciation and loyalty in return. It’s why I’ve always considered you to be our partner, not our client or customer.

All dogs can learn new tricks. Everyone has had to pivot faster than ever. Things that were inconceivable or just inconvenient a few weeks ago are unavoidable now. Selling vehicles online, buying them on Simulcast, purchasing vehicles using remote signing capabilities, and offering valet and concierge services in your fixed ops all come to mind as good examples. We put out a new suite of virtual tools on Autotrader and 12,000 dealers signed up in the first few weeks to offer these at-home services on their listings.

Experts emerge in a crisis. No, this isn’t about Dr. Fauci. When things got tough, everyone in the industry turned to Cox Automotive experts like Dale Pollak and Jonathan Smoke, our chief economist. Their insights were invaluable for navigating the roughest pandemic waters and we’re sure glad these two and others are in our boat (and yours).

There will be a [choose your letter] recovery. Some think it will be a “V” and others think it will be a “W” or a “U.” Our crystal ball isn’t any clearer than yours. We don’t know what will happen with the economy, especially the key factors of unemployment and consumer credit, so we’re planning for every possible scenario. But there are plenty of signs that there will be a recovery — starting soon.

Digital is here to stay. We thought we’d finally hit the milestone of selling 50% of cars digitally at Manheim this year. That looks quaint now that every car we auction is through one of our many digital channels. On the retail side, we’ve long thought that a milestone might be 15–20% of cars sold with most of the transaction completed online. That now looks closer than it ever has.

Driving is back. As mass and shared transportation get pared back by social distancing, we could see miles driven in personal cars stabilize for longer than expected and the timeline for autonomous displacement delayed even longer.

Clean is the new convenient. We all agree that the consumer is in charge. And it’s clear that more and more of them will value clean, sanitized, disinfected and purified vehicles, rides and sales experiences – probably even more so than convenience. That’s one of the reasons we rushed to provide a new disinfection solution and service called PureProtect by RideKleen.

Of course, it would be irresponsible to talk about what’s ahead without examining our strategies through the lens of increased justice and equality. We have long believed that we were doing the “right things” to promote diversity and inclusion at Cox Automotive and in the automotive industry. But these things have not been enough – so we’ve renewed our urgency to do more and do better.

We’re always anxious to hear about your experience and expectations for the future. Give us a call if you’re seeing something much different (or just want to chat). We’re here for you and excited to #FindTheWayForward together.


Sandy Schwartz

President and CEO
Cox Automotive

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