Are dealership vendors getting in the way of an improved car buying process?

It dawned on me the other day that there sure are a lot of people telling dealers what to do.

In fact, it’s pretty much the same message all the time: Get more efficient! Speed up the sales process! Car buyers don’t want to go through a 3-hour ordeal just to buy a car! Make them wait and your CSI will crash!

Or how about this expectation: People want an Amazon or Apple buying experience when buying a car.

The point is pretty much the same: Car buyers want a simplified process that they are more familiar with. They want to spend less time at the dealership. They want to accomplish more upfront before ever stepping into the store. They expect that if much of the transaction can be completed prior to their visit to the dealership, their time at the showroom will be reduced.

Not surprisingly, according to a Cox Automotive study, less than 1% of consumers like the sales process as it is today.

This is something dealers know all too well. Why? Customers tell them every day.

Dealership teams aren’t oblivious to the fact that a change is needed. In fact, we fielded a survey just recently that found that 90% of dealers want an under 2-hour sales process. Of course, wanting and doing are two different things: only 47% of dealers reported they were able to achieve under 2-hour transactions.

It takes time, cooperation, and commitment to evolve from the “old way” to a process that leverages technologies and a ‘customer first’ experience. Progress is being made, CSI is improving, but it takes time.  

So, when vendors and suppliers start carping about the need for speed, dealers are already well aware. But they also know that some of those same vendors telling them to speed up are the ones getting in the way of progress. How’s that for irony?   

A recent study showed that 85% of dealers said that integration between platform providers in their stores needed to be better, rating it only fair to good. Furthermore, 86% of dealers felt that vendor cooperation would facilitate greatly reduced start-to-finish transaction times.

Unfortunately, these same dealers aren’t optimistic that vendor cooperation can be achieved. Over 70% said it was only somewhat likely that their service providers would move to the open integration model required to support the evolving sales and finance processes.

The top 2 reasons they think cooperation among vendors is barely likely? Vendors are more interested in protecting the status quo and vendor competition.

The reason for such skepticism? Reality.

The reality is dealers can’t fully evolve if their vendors don’t or won’t.

The sales pitch says one thing, but reality on the ground reveals how a myriad of vendor service providers utilized by dealers are not always willing or able to facilitate the two-way flow of information across platforms and systems.

Unless vendors cooperate to connect the online and offline dots, dealers’ hands are virtually tied because they simply can’t leverage the technology between their preferred service providers.

Of course, that’s not always the case. But it’s always a good idea to ask prospective vendors the following three questions before you hire them or subscribe to their service; and definitely ask your current providers:

  • Do your digital retail tools integrate into in-store processes and platforms?  Online tools cannot be stand alone. They need to seamlessly integrate with all platforms involved in the deal flow. This will allow data sharing and will eliminate redundancies for both consumer and dealer – saving time at the dealership and improving the quality of the transition from sales to F&I.


  • Does the vendor have an open API or promote and open exchange of capabilities? For dealers not interested in all-in-one mega systems, API’s and other existing technologies make it easy to seamlessly share information across platforms in ways that are fully compliant and secure. In this way, dealers maintain greater control to design the solutions and workflows that work best for them. One example is the cloud-based system from Dealer Vault that gives dealerships control over the syndication and distribution of their DMS data – regardless of the DMS system they use.
  • Are you in control of your data? Proper vendor integration allows dealers to control and connect their data; something vital to creating a streamlined experience for buyers.

Automotive retail is getting faster and more complex every day. To keep up, dealerships need to create frictionless, real-time integrations and information exchanges between the dealer’s website, CRM system, desking/finance, compliance, and DMS platforms. That’s a challenge on the best day, but pretty much impossible without productive cooperation between all vendors involved in the deal flow.

Your partners need to understand your big picture. Make sure the providers you choose to do business with are as interested in your dealership’s success as they are their own.

Pete brings 40+ years of experience in automotive finance and technology as Founder and CEO of eLEND Solutions™, an automotive FinTech company providing a middleware solution designed to power transactional digital retailing buying experiences. The platform specializes in hybrid credit report, identity verification, and ‘pre-desking’ solutions, accelerating end-to-end purchase experiences - helping dealers sell more cars! Faster! 

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