Roadster said Monday it is now providing its white-label vehicle ecommerce solution to Longo Toyota, which is said to be the largest Toyota store in the world.
Longo, which is a part of the Penske Motor Group and AuSM's CPO Dealer of the Year in 2012, joins a list of other well-known dealers and dealer groups using the Roadster solution to offer online car sales, including Price Simms Auto Group, the John Elway Dealerships and the Paragon Group.
Roadster also closed a $7.25 million round of funding, which the company plans to use to grow its field and engineering teams.
All of this continues rapid growth by the San Francisco-based company, which is now offering its Express Storefront platform to dozens of dealers across 22 brands in 21 states, with the majority of that expansion happening this year.
“It really is the biggest and most progressive dealers that we’re starting with, which is great validation and exciting,” chief executive Andy Moss said in a phone interview this month.
During the same call, Roadster chief marketing officer Michelle Denogean said of Longo: “Really, it’s their scale that makes this implementation unique. And while (president Brendan Harrington’s) main goal is around a customer experience, it really is efficiency for a store like that,” given the volume of vehicles the dealership moves.
“So if there’s anybody that’s really interested in proving efficiency while they’re increasing the customer satisfaction scores, it would be a high-scale dealership like (Longo),” Denogean said.
Going big from the start
Since shifting its model in 2016 to include dealers, Roadster has certainly made a splash with some of the big dealer names it has brought aboard, Longo Toyota being one.
When asked why Roadster has chosen that route versus moving small to large, Moss pointed to a number of factors, one being the fact that large-scale dealerships need the type of efficiency that Roadster can provide.
“It’s really a solution that does work across the board. So we have small, luxury dealers all the way through to the biggest ones. But the progressiveness, I think, and the benefits that you can get at the big a scale, just suits itself very well to our platform and the experience that we can provide,” Moss said.
“So I think that’s kind of why you’re seeing those kind of dealers that are gravitating towards this,” he said. “I do think over time, this is where the industry as a whole is going, so I don’t think it’s going to be small or large, urban or rural or whatever; I think this is going to be the way consumers want to shop, and it’s just that certain dealers are more prepared and ready to adopt this sooner than others.”
The Express Storefront services have spread across the country, a process made easier with Roadster now having some practice navigating the respective DMV landscapes of different states.
It appears it’s not just one type of area that seems to be driven towards the online option; the company has had success in rural, urban and suburban areas.
“The biggest driver, I think, has much more to do with their processes and how they’re driving their systems than whether it’s rural or a major metropolitan area,” Denogean said.
‘Energy around constant improvement’
The relationship between Longo and Roadster has long been brewing.
They began discussions even before Express Storefront officially launched with its first dealer last year and have kept in touch. Roadster has continued adjusting the model, says Longo’s Harrington, and was receptive to suggestions and back.
“That’s why I’m excited, because I love to partner with someone who wants to keep getting better, not just build a piece of software and sell it to as many people as possible,” Harrington said. “So what I like about Roadster is just that energy around constant improvement.”
The online buying services are now available for Longo customers on both new and used vehicles. Asked for an estimate on how many of his customers will go this route, Harrington said he’d be “purely guessing” but hopes that 10 percent to 20 percent do so.
Be a resource for consumer
Whatever the proportion that buy online, Longo’s aim is to be there to assist a customer and answer questions at any point through the online process, but not interfere. Harrington said the platform allows customers to go through the steps of the buying at their own pace and at home, if they so choose.
The shopper can choose to go through the entire process online and have the car delivered to his or her home or pause the process and go into the dealership to complete the transaction.
Harrington also appreciates the fact that it gives the customer a way to learn more about terms and options and become a more educated shopper.
A lot of basic questions tend to come up among shoppers, he says: What price can I get the car for? Do you have this car?
Another, for instance: what is the difference between an LE model and XLE model? Roadster’s platform can allow the dealer to find the difference, for instance, and send to the shopper.
“What it means is, our salesperson is much smarter in their discussion on the differences, but it also means we’re not going to deliver cars that don’t have the options that consumers expect, as much,” Harrington said.
He also lauded the fact that searching by payment a month is available. So if the shopper knows he or she can spend $400 a month, the search can be tailored to pull up cars that match that criteria.
“They may be thinking they can afford or want a Corolla, but when they see they can get a Tacoma, four-wheel drive, off-road package, also for under $400 because the residual’s so good, suddenly they become a Tacoma shopper,” Harrington said. “It empowers the consumer to say, ‘how can I maximize the car for me within a given budget?’”
Harrington added: “If you go online and shop for anything right now, there is so much noise. There’s so many opinions. And it’s almost like the more you research, the more confused you get.
“And so our job is not to be the hard negotiators of old; our job, I think, is to educate the consumer, listen to them, be that still point in a turning world, that little quiet voice that helps them figure out what their best option is,” Harrington said. “And that’s what this tool, I think, helps us do.”