The Brands Disrupting the Automotive Buying Business Model
In the past, buying a car meant going to the lot, test-driving a few, then haggling with the salesperson until you had a meeting of the minds on features and price. Today, a number of companies have built business models around enabling consumers to seamlessly shop and finance an automobile without leaving the home.
This trend accelerated during last year’s pandemic-related lockdown. According to a survey by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., less than a third of younger consumers prefer conducting car sales and aftersales in-person at a dealership. Respondents said they were more interested in contactless services, with approximately half stating a willingness to pay extra for this service.
Here are a few public companies at the forefront of this growing trend in auto-buying.
Going public via SPAC earlier this year, CarLotz, Inc. (Tii:LOTZ) is an omnichannel platform for used vehicle consignment and retail remarketing. The company looks to disrupt the used car business by selling vehicles both online and via a growing network of U.S. hubs where customers can opt to visit in person. CarLotz handles inspection, sales and financing – eliminating the seller’s need to place want ads and identify purchasers.
CarLotz recently announced that it entered into a multi-faceted strategic relationship with Ally Financial Inc. (Tii:ALLY). In the agreement, Ally, a digital financial services company, will provide enhanced financing options, remarketing opportunities, a streamlined financing transaction process and additional financing and insurance product offerings to CarLotz and its customers. In addition to CarLotz, Ally partners with several automotive platforms to offer a range of loan options to fit different buyers’ circumstances. With over $140 billion in total deposits, Ally provides financing, leasing, commercial insurance, and vehicle protection products for over 19,000 dealers, 4.1 million consumer auto customers, and 2.5 million insurance customers in the U.S.
Another major player in this space, Carvana Co. (Tii:CVNA), gained notoriety for its multi-story car vending machines. A leading e-commerce platform for buying and selling used vehicles, every aspect of the shopping experience is handled online – initial search through financing. For a fee, the company will even ship cars from other markets for customers. Its platform has picked up steam in recent months. Full-year 2020 total gross profit increased 57% to $793.8 million as revenues rose 42% to $5.58 billion and retail units sold grew 37% to 244,111. The company expects to release its next earnings report on May 6, 2021. Shares for the e-commerce platform are up 200% for the trailing 12 months ended April 23, 2021.
Billing itself as the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, CarMax, Inc. (Tii:KMX) will not only deliver a vehicle to its purchaser but will allow a 24-hour test drive. The platform has more than 200 stores nationwide, and during the latest fiscal year, sold nearly 830,000 used cars and 460,000 wholesale vehicles at its in-store auctions. Looking to solidify its position in the used car space, CarMax is in the process of rolling out an omnichannel experience, providing customers the option to complete transactions entirely from home, in-store, or a combination of both. The company recently completed its acquisition of Edmunds, an online resource for automotive information, in a deal valued at $404 million.
Founded by famed American entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga, AutoNation, Inc. (Tii:AN) touts itself as America’s largest and most recognized automotive retailer. As of December 31, 2020, AutoNation owned and operated over 315 locations from coast to coast. For the company’s first-quarter 2021, adjusted EPS from continuing operations hit an all-time record of $2.79, an increase of 207% compared to adjusted EPS from continuing operations of $0.91 in the prior year. Same-store revenue and same-store gross profit were each up 27%, compared to the same period a year ago.
As technology continues to evolve, the opportunities to shop for big-ticket items like cars will become increasingly user-friendly. Keep an eye on this sector to find more opportunities to buy the brands that you love.