I recently came across commentary wherein the author questioned whether Carvana sells cars for less than franchise dealers. In that video, the author rightly claims that Carvana has certainly built their brand on that message. In addition, he goes on to explain why the “experience” they offer is the reason that consumers have flocked to them, poured their hearts and money into buying cars from their gimmick vending machines and have created customer loyalty. He cites an article in Forbes in which a reporter did a study to actually find out whether Carvana’s message is actually true and, you know what his conclusion was? He was “unable to find any evidence of savings at Carvana.” So, what, right? He’s just a contributor to Forbes but you know what? Both Cox Automotive, Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds said the same thing.
It’s the “experience” that matters, right?
I couldn’t count on both hands how many HORRIBLE experiences customers have reported they’ve had with Carvana. Their dealer’s license taken away multiple times because they can’t even process paperwork properly. They simply keep sending new “temporary plates” to buyers in different states hoping the buyer will just be happy. Maybe Carvana would be better described as a company offering better experiences through marketing.
The only reason that Carvana even became a “thing” with consumers is that they offered consumers what they wanted… and not only that, they told the consumer up front and blasted that message everywhere. Dealers have had the exact same ability to do the same thing for decades. Unfortunately, many chose not to which only made Carvana’s “buying a car doesn’t have to suck” message more attractive. If dealers had been doing this all along, there never would have been a Carvana or Vroom because there would be no place for them. The truth is, dealers can do everything Carvana can and more!
The customer “experience” hasn’t changed in 50+ years. Carvana flourished during the pandemic when many dealership’s doors were closed, and many didn’t have any kind of digital retailing options. Guess what? Dealerships are open again! And what has happened?
Consumers are choosing dealerships… not Carvana!
The same article in Forbes says consumers choosing Carvana are NOT SAVING money. In fact, Carvana is almost always charging more than a traditional dealership. In addition, the financing arm of Carvana is a sham! Don’t believe me? Experian reports that the average finance rate for a consumer that purchased a car from Carvana and used their in-house lending between 2018-2021 was 13.41% whereas the average financing rate from a franchise dealer was 8.76%!
So, now we know that Carvana is NOT selling cars cheaper than dealers but also NOT financing cars for less. (Both of which they claim.) What’s left? Experience?
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN EXPERIENCE NOW OR IN THE LAST 50 YEARS! Customers want a few things:
- Give me a price (with no BS.)
- Give me a value on my trade-in (with no BS.)
- Give me my interest rate (with no BS.)
- Give me my terms (with no BS.)
- Give me my payment (with no BS.)
Customers want information and then they want to decide. THAT’S ALL!
Want to give your customer an “experience?” How about simply providing good customer service?
Focus on presentation and delivery. That’s where you can make a difference!
- Have the car clean ready and up front, AC on in the summer, heat in the winter OR deliver on the showroom if you can.
- Have the books and keys ready to go. Bookmark the biggest questions that you get from customers in the owner’s manual: radio operation, phone pairing, tire pressure, common maintenance notifications, seat operation, trunk operation, spare tire, roadside assistance (if applicable) etc. If you want to really be fancy, highlight these areas and write a small personal note and include your cell number.
- Take them back to the parts dept. and let them pick out some brand gear! C'mon dealers that would be $100 max! It promotes the band, nurtures brand loyalty, and makes the customer feel special!!!!
- Ask the customer to give you a Google review on their cell phone while they are still at your dealership. If you're a smart salesperson, ask them to even name you in the review!!!!
- Introduce them to their personal service writer. Schedule their first service appointment. Ask the customer if you can pick it up for them? Usually this will be at work, and you'll have to come get the keys in front of all their co-workers.... HMMMM!
- Follow up to see if you can be of service within 7 days of delivery.
If you think that Apple magically came up with this process than you’ve never sold a car! You want to give your customers an “experience?” Stop playing games. Give them the information that they want when they ask for it and treat them right and they will buy your car! If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, go buy some Apple stickers, for God’s sake. WTF is an experience? Do you even know? Exactly. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who can define it for you.