Monday, Jun. 04, 2007, 08:00 PM UPDATED 11:59 AMBy Nick Zulovich
LAS VEGAS — AutoTrader.com recently announced the launch of a credit center to connect the more than 1,600 buy-here, pay-here dealers who advertise via the site with local credit-challenged consumers.
At the recent National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers conference in Las Vegas, SubPrime Auto Finance News sat down with David Pyle, AutoTrader.com's director of advertising in product management, to discuss the new initiative.
BHPH and special finance dealers told AutoTrader.com that they wanted a product to help them connect online with their target audience, Pyle explained. So he said AutoTrader.com stepped in to fill the gap.
"We firmly believe in doing a lot of research before we launch a new product," he said. "We built the consumer credit questionnaire based on back from dealers. Dealer response has been, ‘Finally, you guys get it.'"
Basically, when consumers go to the main AutoTrader.com site, there is a link for the credit center they can click on. There are three main choices once consumers are on the new site — connect, learn and calculate.
Via the connect feature, consumers can fill out a simple questionnaire to get an idea of their credit level. The questions cover subjects such as: How long have you had established credit; how long have you consistently been employed; and how long have you lived at your current residence?
The questionnaire goes on to question consumers about late payments, account balances versus limits and whether they have filed for bankruptcy, had a foreclosure or other situation that can negatively impact credit ratings.
Consumers are also asked to enter their ZIP code so the site can connect consumers with dealers in their area who can best serve their needs based on the credit analysis. The feature also generates a map to give consumers directions to the store of their choice.
Through the learn option, consumers can read articles explaining the basics of auto loans and get an idea of the various options available, as well as helpful hints.
"About 25 percent of consumers go into the dealership unprepared," Pyle noted. "They don't have the things they need."
He told a story about a soldier's wife in Denver who went out of her way to go to a dealership to purchase a vehicle. Her husband was overseas serving in Iraq. Apparently, she forgot her utility bill and had to take more time off work to go back to the store the next day to finish the transaction.
In order to prevent such situations, Pyle said the new credit center offers a checklist of items a consumer will need to take with them when visiting a dealership.
The calculate option provides consumers with a calculator to help determine what the monthly cost of a car loan will be after factoring in the price of a vehicle, rebates, sales tax, APR, loan length, down payment, trade-in value and amount owed on trade-in. It also explores other car-buying scenarios.
According to , BHPH dealers interested in advertising via the credit center are best served by purchasing the Featured Plus package.
"There are some bigger and some smaller packages, but this is the best representative package for BHPH dealers," explained Karlie Stanton, an AutoTrader.com spokesperson.
Stanton said the Featured Plus package allows shoppers to securely apply for credit online, in addition to providing exposure for a dealer in the credit center. Moreover, dealers can personalize their store in the listings by identifying themselves as a BHPH dealer and provide a blurb discussing their business.
Only dealers who are serious about working in the BHPH business should identify themselves as such through the credit center, Pyle said. Participating dealers can select two credit tiers that their dealership specializes in, which will be highlighted in their ads.
"As finance companies are going deeper than ever into subprime, the credit center can give BHPH dealers the competitive edge and help them generate more business," he explained.
Meanwhile, Chip Perry, president and chief executive officer of AutoTrader.com, pointed out, "The credit center provides AutoTrader.com BHPH dealer customers with a unique avenue to merchandise their services in a powerful new way to credit-challenged car shoppers.
"Now dealers can not only merchandise their dealership to this audience in a highly targeted fashion, but they can also better merchandise their vehicles to these customers more effectively," he continued.
Ken Shilson, founder of the NABD and Subprime Analytics, also noted, "Today, the BHPH industry is the most rapidly growing segment of the automotive industry. AutoTrader.com's new credit center connects a growing number of credit-challenged customers with dealers that can help them. What a great combination."
For more information on advertising via the credit center, call (888) 249-6860.