By Alysha Webb, Editor and Publisher
CarSaver, an online car buying platform, is expanding with Walmart in a move that will give it access to more of the retail giant’s customers and employees. The program is one more sign that the internet is transforming the retail auto experience.
“For customers, this is a fast and easy way to get a price and financing to buy a car from one of our certified dealerships,” CarSaver president Chad Collier tells Automotive Buy Sell Report.
Billing itself as “a great new way to buy cars,” CarSaver works like this: A customer goes onto the website and searches inventory at certified CarSaver dealers. He or she receives a price and payment amount to buy or lease a new or used car at a specific dealer. The buyer can also finance and insure the vehicle through CarSaver before going to the dealership to sign the paperwork and pick up the vehicle. The dealership receives the commission if the customer finances a vehicle.
That is what consumers desire these days, says Collier. “When the dust settles, customers just want a fair upfront price,” he says. “The customer prefers to skip the negotiation.”
Dealerships also save time, he says, by not having to sift through dozens of third party leads that are also sent to competing dealerships. Once a customer decides on a vehicle and a price, CarSaver makes an exclusive appointment for the customer with only one dealership.
“The conversion rate is higher because each customer isn’t sent to multiple dealers — it’s one customer to one dealer” says Collier. “And the customer already selected the car they want, and they know the price upfront.”
If the sale goes through, the dealer pays CarSaver a $350 “success fee.”
CarSaver storefronts at Walmart
In early 2017 CarSaver announced that starting in April of that year it would have kiosks at several Wal-Mart stores to test the concept with consumers. There, shoppers could learn about the CarSaver process and use a touchscreen to search for and buy a car.
At that time, CarSaver announced that Ally Financial would be its preferred lender and since has added a network of other financial institutions. Ally Financial is currently offering gift card incentives to Walmart customers who finance through Ally using the CarSaver site.
Now, the auto buying program with Walmart is being expanded to the retailer’s locations nationwide, which includes more than 3,500 supercenters.
CarSaver will also have “Tesla-like” storefronts built into the front of 250 supercenters across the country, says Collier.
At other Walmart locations, customers will learn about CarSaver through other promotional touchpoints.
“The idea is to promote the program and the inventory of our certified dealerships,” says Collier.
Dealerships don’t make much profit selling new cars these days. Rather, they reap benefits servicing the vehicles they sell.
CarSaver is mindful of that, says Collier. It sends service reminders to buyers to take the car back to the dealership for service based on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
“One of the primary objectives is to connect customers with their local dealership, to buy their car and to have it serviced there,” he says.
All vehicles sold through CarSaver carry a lifetime powertrain warranty and all repairs are done through CarSaver’s certified dealer network. The average order is $3500, says Collier.
Collier and his partner, Sean Wolfington, are not dealership neophytes. Both worked at dealerships selling cars through college and eventually owned and operated their own dealerships.
Collier acquired a Ford dealer at 26 and his family helped him run it and Wolfington is an owner of LA Honda in Los Angeles, one of the largest Honda dealerships in the world.
The two founders met at an automotive conference, “started talking, and had a shared vision,” says Collier. That’s where they got the idea for CarSaver.
The Walmart cooperation will soon extend beyond Walmart’s in-store customers. Before the end of the year, the inventory of CarSaver dealers will appear on the Walmart.com website. CarSaver will also launch a program to help Walmart’s 1.5 million U.S. associates buy a car.
Working with Walmart feels familiar in some ways, says Collier.
“Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, but very similar to a car dealer in that they are there in the local market serving local customers, helping and supporting the neighborhood,” he says. “In most local economies, dealerships and Walmart are the largest employers. We love working with the Walmart team.”