Curbie: Revolutionizing Retail AutomotiveCurbie News March 07, 2019
Retail automotive is one of Canada’s largest and oldest economic sectors. Despite its importance - $200 billion in sales annually in Canada – the way cars are sold hasn’t changed much in 100 years. People still visit a physical dealership, haggle with a sales person and drive off the lot with buyer’s remorse.
Consumers aren’t the only ones affected. The sector is crowded – there are 7,389 car dealerships in Canada. Decades of sustained price competition has gutted margins, which is pressuring take-home pay and employment quality. As a result, employee turnover is high as are rates of burnout.
The key to fixing the sector is modernization through automation, and the application of web/mobile technology and artificial intelligence.
Usually, when businesses add automated systems to sales or customer support, consumers complain. However, in automotive retail, they’re asking for it. Only 8% of consumers rate car salespeople as “highly trustworthy”. Consumers have also changed how they shop for cars. Instead of consulting a salesperson to find their ideal vehicle, 97% of consumers research their purchase online before buying. Further, 52% of people test drive a single vehicle before making a purchase. This means that consumers know what they want before going to a dealership. These types of buying habits lend themselves to online shopping. And, looking south of the border, we see online car sales taking off.
Carvana (NYSE Stock Ticker: ‘CVNA’) is a US-based online vehicle retailer and it is killing it. In its 5th year of operation, sales reached USD 1.6B on more than 66,000 vehicle sales. Some analysts are projecting that the company will catch CarMax – which sold 198,000 cars last year and is the most venerable name in the business - in the next 12-months.
Curbie has adapted Carvana’s style of selling to the Canadian market. The technology we are developing is a platform for selling millions of cars, not just hundreds, like most dealerships sell today. The vehicle retail space of the future has fewer players, a smaller geographic footprint and a common digital platform joining it all together. This latter piece is a big deal. Today, even the largest dealership groups in Canada are very far away from having common platforms. Most employ a hodgepodge of different systems at each of their subsidiary dealerships, making central management impossible. Additionally, their footprints are HUGE. They have showrooms, staff and inventory in every market they serve. This is an extremely expensive operating model.
The path forward involves heavy integration of technology. Curbie is developing this technology and, importantly, it is born in the industry. We are also pioneering a low-overhead business model without showrooms or sales staff. In the last year, we have served 100 happy customers and surpassed $2.3M in revenue, operating in Saskatchewan alone. We are now expanding to Alberta and our sights are set high.
At Curbie, we believe that car sales can be done better and that what is good for consumers is also good for the industry.
If you believe what we believe, please check us out at curbie.ca and follow us on LinkedIn or @curbiecars on Facebook and Instagram.
You can also get in touch with us at [email protected].
By Alex Cruder, CEO & Co-Founder of Curbie