Technology, Automation and the Keys to the Car Industry’s Future

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

Steve Jobs

From zero-emission flying taxis to the rise of electric vehicles, the car industry is entering a brave new world. Now more than ever, it is there for the taking. Doc Brown’s flying DeLorean has almost landed and how the industry negotiates technology and human intervention, will define its future. But just as savvy innovators and tech geeks make a solar-powered-robot-fisted land grab for its jugular, the industry’s lifeblood remains the same; car dealers.

As the wheels of innovation spin relentlessly around them, these great survivors have steadfastly remained a constant source of comfort; and occasional consternation. They are the gears that drive our industry, but their roles are evolving and they must adapt.

The FCA revealed earlier this year that it was assessing the motor finance industry because it was “concerned that there may be a lack of transparency, potential conflicts of interest and irresponsible lending”. To complicate matters, a major sea change in data protection will enter the UK market in May 2018, when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force. The industry is under scrutiny and many dealers could be forgiven for thinking they are on borrowed time.

The traditional car-buying experience is being modernised, regulated and moved online. Those days of trudging aimlessly around unfamiliar dealership forecourts, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, will soon be a thing of the past. Time-pressed consumers want transparency and efficiency, executed within a modern retail environment. A more seamless purchasing experience is upon us and new technologies are allowing businesses to play a more proactive and positive role in consumer journeys; before, during and after they have left the forecourt.

At Oodle HQ, in a leafy corner of Oxfordshire, our tech bods are well on their way to turning the tired processes of applying for a loan and finding the right car into a one click, sneeze-and-you-miss-it, digital (and regulated) process. Revolution is in the air and reinvention is going to help us drive a much needed change in our industry. Yet dealers are a fundamental cog behind our method to making this a reality. Despite the way technology and innovation is reimagining the car buying experience, we still believe car dealers are the keys to the proverbial kingdom.

“As a finance company, I genuinely believe we have a hugely important role to play in supporting dealers,” Oodle’s co-founder, Jonny Clayton, explains. “At the moment there is a such a fragmented dealer market, with each one trying to solve the same problem and each one looking to build their own digital autonomy. We want to use finance to help them do this and to bring dealers and customers closer together in order to create a more seamless, effective and transparent experience.”

It was with this intention that Oodle x Carsnip was launched. Our joint venture with Carsnip marries their brilliant search functionalities, with our data-informed finance technology, to bring dealers and customers closer together. And much earlier in the sales process. By harnessing the power of PPC (pay per click) traffic and by using finance to drive it through dealer websites, this exciting new partnership gives dealerships an advertising platform and control of their own sales opportunities.

“You can feel that there is a real groundswell of dealers trying to improve their ability to access customers and challenge the Auto Trader monopoly,” Jonny added. “So many dealers are building their own digital marketing and customer acquisition strategies and that is hugely exciting. There is a fantastic opportunity for us to support all of our dealers with the brilliant technology we’ve created. Together we can facilitate really fantastic customer journeys, and collectively try to minimise the inefficient offline processes.

“By integrating our systems within dealership operations, and by continuously striving to improve and automate underwriting decision making, finance can be the catalyst for a more effective customer journey. It gives us a really strong foundation to drive change in this market.”

Consumers want a service they can trust. In short that means responsible loans, trustworthy car dealers, and reliable cars customers can afford. In the finest traditions of the aforementioned founder of Apple, we’re using technology and finance to drive that change, and place the right dealers at the centre of the industry.