In what is becoming a clear trend, another dealership group has invested significantly in an online car sales platform.
AutoNation, recently ranked 138 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list, announced an investment and working relationship with the online car buying platform Vroom. In a news release about the investment, AutoNation president Mike Jackson said “We are excited about our investment in Vroom and the potential collaboration between our companies.”
Vroom’s CEO, Paul Hennessy, echoed that sentiment in the news release. “AutoNation has been one of the chief trailblazers in transforming automotive commerce in the past several decades,” he wrote, “It is a perfect fit to have them in our family as our industry is quickly scaling towards the digital purchase and sale experience that we are offering.”
AutoNation boasts 325 locations across the country and was the first automotive retailer to sell 11 million cars. Their investment of $50 million buys them a 7% stake in Vroom. Vroom, meanwhile, operates entirely online, giving customers the ability to shop for their car from home and simply have it delivered. While Vroom has a more tech based approach, both companies list customer satisfaction and user experience as top priorities.
This union of online and real world dealerships creates a ‘bricks and clicks’ option that appeals to many. It delivers the familiarity of traditional car sales with an efficient, online option for people who have embraced the idea of buying everything from toilet paper to cars without human interaction.
AutoNation and Vroom’s new relationship comes on the heels of a $54 million investment in Shift by Lithia, the fourth largest automotive retailer in the United States. The investment helped to more than double Shift’s total financing and landed Lithia CEO and president Bryan DeBoer a seat with Shift’s board of directors.
Online shopping has revolutionized the way people buy just about everything. The one glaring exception has been the process of buying a car. While many people still prefer the real world, tactile version of car shopping, there’s clearly a market for a more autonomous option. As established automotive retail groups partner with online marketplaces and mobile platforms, customers gain the ability to tailor their car buying experience in the same way they tailor their dream car. Make no mistake, how someone can buy a car has become almost as important as the car itself.