As I write this, I’m thinking how much every industry has changed over the last year. More than changed, actually — progressed in unimaginable ways.
Just looking at the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, and how its members have managed to develop breakthrough vaccines in months vs. the average four-year time frame. It gave me pause to consider what had to happen to make way for such innovation, and the adoption of such innovative products, to occur.
Then, of course, I thought about the changes that have occurred in the automotive industry. Where to begin? I think if the demand for used vehicles hadn’t exploded in 2020, then the industry might not have evolved at the pace it did.
From 2 years to 2 weeks
For years, there’s been talk of retail processes going online; of consumers getting cars delivered to their door without ever stepping a foot in a dealership; of finance and insurance being seamlessly integrated into the entire sales experience. While access to such innovative solutions was available, those solutions were always an option, not a requirement. 2020 changed that.
I recently saw KAR Auction Services CEO Jim Hallett on CNBC discussing how much the company’s operations changed in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the company had a two-year goal of moving to fully digital online sales from brick-and-mortar. Imagine hitting the gas pedal on that project and going from two years ... to two to three weeks. What seemed impossible became not only possible, but necessary and a reality.
A huge, traditional brick-and-mortar operation with hundreds of millions in physical infrastructure assets completely converted to online in a couple of weeks. It’s truly astonishing when you put it into perspective.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say our industry saw more change in 2020 than in its entire history. I also think there is as much, if not more, change coming in the next 24 months. As solution providers, we have quickly grown accustomed to innovating with a fresh sense of prioritization — focusing on delivering meaningful products that support consumers in a world of new pandemic-induced norms.
A bold decision
Perhaps there is a close correlation to what we’ve seen with brick-and-mortar operations this last year that might give us a bit of perspective on what to expect in the future. My great friend, Willis Johnston, is the founder of Copart, which is the largest automotive salvage auction platform in the world today. Willis made a decision 18 years ago to completely move his salvage auction houses to 100 percent digital. In 2003, it was beyond a bold move; it was unheard of, and his skeptics were many. Today, Copart is a multinational $26 billion company selling a vehicle every few seconds on average, every day of the week, all over the world.
I believe we all share a little bit of Willis’ bullishness and are prioritizing innovation, as the pandemic has forced us to push the envelope. That is certainly the case at CarOffer and our focus on modernizing the wholesale vehicle market. The innovation and change that have already occurred in the wholesale space are mind-blowing, and I feel we’re just getting started, as paradigm shifts seem to be taking place daily. If Willis knew then what he knows now, where else might he have revolutionized the industry and doubled down on innovation?
Here’s what we know now: Dealers need vehicles for their customers, and they need them now. And dealers need instant values and instant inventory replenishment. If we can figure out a method to automatically match the near unlimited online supply to the unlimited online demand, and do it in near real time, the game changes significantly, and the pioneers become the huge winners.
Here’s to 2021 and the promise it brings!
Founder + CEO of CarOffer