Technology driving big changes for car shopping

Posted Apr 15, 2014 by Michael Essany
The days of sauntering onto a car lot, ill-equipped with knowledge or insight, and falling prey to the cunning ways of the opportunistic car salesman are long gone.
The Ford logo is seen on a newly-built Ford Focus at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in this Oct...
The Ford logo is seen on a newly-built Ford Focus at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in this October 1, 2013 file photo in Wayne, Michigan
Mira Oberman, AFP/File
Today's car shoppers are smarter and savvier than ever before. And it's changing the way car shopping is done.
Shopping for a new automobile may not be typically thought of as a high-tech process, but it is. Beyond mobile apps that allow for pricing information, security ratings, customer reviews, and inventory data, technology has even rendered the traditional test drive somewhat obsolete. According to testimony from countless dealership managers, consumers frequently march onto their lot, express their wishes, and drive home with a new car in 30 minutes or less.
These days, it can take longer to get a pizza than a new car.
"For generations," says Jaclyn Trop of The New York Times, "the auto dealer has been the primary avenue for carmakers to sell vehicles to consumers. But technology is rapidly changing that equation. Consumers no longer depend on dealers to learn about cars."
Today, at West Valley City's Henry Day Ford, one of Utah's foremost Ford dealerships, current and prospective customers alike are given an innovative opportunity to “virtually test drive” a number of new model vehicles. Want to check out the 2015 Ford Explorer SUV? Just a few clicks will take you inside the vehicle for a comprehensive look at the model that provides everything but the new car smell.
Henry Day Ford's website, hailed by many as a perfect example of how a dealer should accommodate tech-savvy consumers in the modern era, may be the standard-bearer today, but others are quickly following the lead and ramping up the elaborate bells and whistles afforded by their dealership's website.
"Car shopping is going the way of eCommerce," explains tech analyst and blogger Ian Hayes. "Dealerships aren't dying and they're not going away. They're just being challenged to adapt. Some are obviously doing that better than others. But car shopping has undergone a monumental transformation and I think the changes have only just begun, which is great for both consumers and dealerships. At no time in recent memory have you seen car shoppers enjoy such pleasant relationships with the people that sell automobiles. Technology has removed so much of the mistrust and misinformation that used to hang over this industry."