Online tools yielding results

Some of the nation’s large public franchised dealership groups say they continue to make progress with their digital retailing initiatives, reaching more consumers and logging more sales.

Groups such as Lithia Motors and Group 1 Automotive, with their own branded online sales platforms, reported thousands of digital transactions in the second quarter. Others, such as Sonic Automotive, say they’re progressing with the rollout of e-commerce tools to more customers.

Here are details from the public new-vehicle retailers’ second-quarter results.

AutoNation executives did not discuss digital retailing in depth when reporting second-quarter earnings results, though they credited “demonstrated digital scale” as one factor contributing to increased used-vehicle revenue. A company spokesman did not respond to requests for more information.

Lithia reported that its Driveway digital retailing platform in June handled at least 4,600 transactions, more than eight times its volume in June 2021, and received 2.3 million monthly unique visitors.

CEO Bryan DeBoer told analysts that Driveway retailed or wholesaled more than 12,000 vehicles in the second quarter, for a revenue contribution of more than $233 million. Driveway is on track to reach a goal of $1 billion in incremental revenue through the platform this year, DeBoer said.

Driveway’s performance shows “how we are making inroads finding new customers while many of our competitors are having to reexamine their own growth strategies,” he said.

Penske leaders said the retailer had 515,000 online service and business development center appointments scheduled in the second quarter. A spokesman said a comparable figure from a year ago was not available.
Penske also has seen an increase in customers paying for their service appointments online. Penske said online payments of $55 million over the three months were up 27 percent over the same period a year earlier.
“On the service side, we continue to encourage online appointments and payments to improve efficiency,” Penske CEO Roger Penske said July 27.

The company also has partnered with automakers on their digital retailing initiatives, including BMW, Porsche, Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Lincoln and Nissan.

“Our OEM initiatives offer some advantages vs. an in-house solution as they enable a buy online function from OEM sites and also integrate with their captive finance company for online credit approvals, rates and programs,” Roger Penske said.

Group 1 sold 6,900 vehicles through its digital retailing platform, AcceleRide, in the second quarter, up 22 percent from the same period a year earlier, the retailer said in a regulatory filing. That figure also reflects 10 percent of the company’s U.S. vehicle sales and is an all-time record, Daryl Kenningham, Group 1’s president of U.S. operations, said in a July 27 earnings call.

The company counts AcceleRide sales as instances in which a customer starts using AcceleRide, goes through the full process and completes a vehicle purchase. More than 70 percent of Group 1 customers are using the platform in some way — for instance, to shop inventory or get appraisals on their vehicles — but those aren’t counted as true AcceleRide sales, Kenningham said.

“During the quarter, we started to more fully integrate our websites into AcceleRide, and we’ve also begun to integrate AcceleRide with our desking and [customer relationship management] software, as well as our credit software,” Kenningham said. “This will provide faster and more transparent transactions for our customers.”

Asbury sold 6,594 vehicles using its Clicklane tool during the second quarter, up 17 percent from the first three months of the year and up 55 percent from the second quarter of 2021, which was the first full quarter after Asbury’s widespread deployment of the digital retailing platform.

Asbury CEO David Hult said July 28 that Clicklane is on track to generate $1 billion in revenue by year-end and $2.2 billion through the end of 2023.

“It was Clicklane’s best quarter ever, with June posting the most Clicklane sales since its inception,” said Dan Clara, Asbury’s senior vice president of operations.

Ninety-two percent of second-quarter Clicklane transactions involved customers who haven’t done business with an Asbury store in at least three years, and 95 percent of deliveries were within 50 miles of an Asbury dealership, according to the company. Asbury said Clicklane customers finished an average cash deal in about eight minutes and that a typical financed deal took about 14 minutes to complete.

Clicklane is integrated with 88 of Asbury’s 155 dealerships, Hult said. It was in use across all Asbury locations a year ago, but the retailer then added dozens of new locations in an acquisition spree in the second half of 2021.

Hult told Automotive News last week that he expects Clicklane to be in all the additional stores by the end of September — including the Larry H. Miller Dealerships sites that Asbury bought in a $3.2 billion December deal.

Sonic CEO David Smith told analysts last month that the retailer in June finished rolling out a new e-commerce platform to be used nationwide through the EchoPark website, which supports Sonic’s EchoPark used-vehicle stores.

“The new platform continues to produce positive results and customer feedback, accounting for 19 percent of our retail volume during the second quarter, with a 30 percent increase in our website conversion rate and out-of-market buyers representing 69 percent of our e-commerce sales,” Smith said.

Melissa Burden, John Huetter, C.J. Moore, Jack Walsworth and George Weykamp contributed to this report.

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