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LUXURY car retailer, Sime Darby Motors, has leaned on the expertise of Angle Auto Finance as the two organisations teamed up to build an online purchase operation for visitors to the retailers’ SD Motors used car website.

Visitors to the Angle Auto Finance F&I panel discussion at the recent AADA Convention heard from James Nipperess, group general manager – sales & financial services at Sime Darby Motors Australia, to discuss the building of an omni channel service with particular focus on financial services.

Sime Darby Motors operates a medium-sized retail business in Australia, with a strong focus on premium luxury new cars. 

The panel, entitled: Achieving growth through an omni-channel buying and financing experience included Mr Nipperess; Alex Farrugia, Angle Auto Finance; Anna Perera-Shaw, RFI Global; Evange Epa, Angle Auto Finance; and Toby Simmons, EKTO Advisory and Investment. 

Mr Nipperess told delegates: “In the past, many automotive groups and dealers sought to maintain a balance in their businesses by emphasising used cars, considering the volatility associated with the arrival of new cars.

Alex Farrugia, Evange Epa, James Nipperess, Anna Perera-Shaw, Toby Simmons

“At Sime Darby Motors, we established our own independent used car brand called SD Motors. This concept revolved around a digitally-driven used car business supported by multiple physical locations.” 

A key strategy was to offer website visitors the end-to-end ability to buy and finance a car online which Sime Darby Motors is now well into the process of building and implementing through SD Motors. 

“If you say it really quickly, that you are going to create a digital environment to sell and finance used cars, it sounds quite easy,” Mr Nipperess said. 

“But I would have to say, having dealt with lots of products in the digital world, the process of buying and financing a car is probably the most complex consumer online transaction you can try and solve. 

“It’s a huge task. You could do credit cards, mortgages, and personal loans in a much easier way than this. 

“The complexity of the product lies with the complexity of the finance programs that make it a really hard thing to do,” he said. 

“But I would like to say that we’re optimists at Sime Darby Motors, so we had a crack at it. 

“About 18 months ago, we undertook a program to try and build our own because there was no off-the-shelf solution, and we looked for a finance partner to go on that journey with us to help develop those tools. 

“And Angle Auto Finance was the business we chose. We are down the track on that and we have just launched our first iteration of that end-to-end buying process. And so far, the customer feedback has been really good.”

Mr Nipperess said that one of the initiatives at SD Motors was to offer a set interest rate for buyers who completed the online sales and financing process.

“Like a lot of groups these days, we have a no-haggle position on the purchase price of the car. But we have also effectively implemented an online-only interest rate on the site which is set around one percent below what the average consumer is paying today. 

“So if the customer completes the online application from start-to-finish online, there’s a benefit in that. 

“In addition, we have integrated a comprehensive back-end system that allows us to monitor customers as they navigate the buying and financing process. Should they encounter any obstacles or express concerns about potential errors, we can reach out to them promptly. 

We can connect with customers through various channels, including SMS, emails or phone calls in order to assist them and ensure a smooth progression through the process. This proactive approach effectively addresses an apprehension or hurdles they may face, enabling a seamless experience for the customers.”

Mr Nipperess warned that there was “a significant risk associated with investing time and resource into a digital solution if the sales activity within the dealership directly contradicts the intended digital experience”.

“Conflicts between online and the in-dealership experience can significantly hinder the overall customer journey. This highlights the crucial importance for dealerships to be fully aware of these potential discrepancies” Mr Nipperess said..

“I am a big fan of the concept of a Say Do Ratio. If you say you’re going to do something, you need to do it. And I think that’s really important in a digital space. So what happens in the showroom must match what your commitments are in the digital space.” 

Mr Nipperess said that was especially important with emerging generations.

“We look at some of the numbers coming through and the highest age group purchasing vehicles this year will be millennials. And then more and more of the Gen Z grouping will be coming into that car-buying mode as well. 

“A noteworthy characteristic shared by both these cohorts is a pronounced scepticism. They approach information with a discerning eye, not readily accepting everything they read, instead they seek out independent review sites to obtain unbiased opinions before proceeding with their purchasing decision.”

“So they are already sceptical of the process. If they then walk into the dealership and there’s a mismatch, then that scepticism only goes higher, and then they close up and they’re not open to an upsell or additional product or whatever. So you start to lose credibility if it doesn’t match. 

“If I could probably give one tip, if you’re not going down the path of your own omni channel process, what I would suggest is you go on to your OEM site, and go through the digital tools or the digital journey that the OEM site is using and make sure that that matches what happens in your dealership. 

“That is so your sales teams are prepared for those questions, and to make sure that the Say Do Ratio is aligned,” Mr Nipperess said.

Evange Epa, who operates the Angle Edge training and excellence program for dealers, told the panel: “When we think about customers who either originate online or originate organically, there’s a growing sense that there needs to be consistency in the way that we nurture these customers. 

“Quite often we can get into the trap of treating online customers differently to how we treat the organic customer. But the reality is there needs to be consistency. 

“What we need to be really good at is the hyper-convenience, the super-seamless, the after-hours accessibility and then also be clear on the expertise that our people in our dealerships have. And so building that immediate value needs to be consistent whether you’re online originated or organic originated,” he said.


By John Mellor