So how is the person who shops via computer and pays via iPhone for small items ranging from food to flowers going to save time when it comes to acquiring a really big item, specifically his or her next new car – especially when studies estimate the amount of time spent shopping for a new set of wheels runs at least 11 hours?
Simple. Take advantage of a new service offered by a startup company called Tred that's designed to simplify the car shopping and buying process.
Go to Tred's website (www.TRED.com) or scroll to the Tred app on your smartphone and you can research the available cars. Then click or touch the appropriate box to have a new vehicle delivered to your home or workplace for a test drive in order to make your buying decision without having to visit several dealerships on your own time.
And if you want to compare two cars side by side, just have Tred deliver a pair.
Tred is the brainchild of 32-year-old founder and CEO Grant Feek, who has come up with what he considers a method to shop for cars that falls within the comfort zone of both high- and low-tech consumers.
Feek earned a business degree in college and ironically, or perhaps appropriately, worked as a car porter and hiker at adealership during summers while in high school and college.
What makes Tred unique is that rather than wait for consumers to visit a dealership, the Tred service, which just launched in the Seattle area, delivers new cars from cooperating dealers to consumers so they can evaluate the merits of each and compare one vehicle against another before they buy. Only licensed drivers are eligible for the service, which drops off the car at the interested buyer’s home or place of work.
Tred product experts take consumers on a walk-around of the vehicle they deliver to detail all features inside and out, then hop in and ride along for a 30-minute test drive. That is followed by the “garage” test, which basically means not only ensuring the car fits in the consumer's garage, but that the potential buyer’s bikes or trikes or child-safety seats fit in the car.
During the test drive the consumer's trade-in is driven back to the dealership to be evaluated. When returned, the customer is given a sheet listing the non-negotiable selling price of the car, prices for similar vehicles being sold via internet services for comparison purposes and the dealer quote on the trade-in.
It is then up to the car shopper to decide whether to visit the dealer to sign on the dotted line with a "matchmaker" (the dealer's designated salesman who works with Tred customers), revisit the Tred website to arrange for a different car to be delivered for a test drive or do nothing and shop the conventional way by visiting other showrooms.
Consumers pay Tred a $19 fee for each car delivered to test. The company pays a flat fee to its own Tred experts, who bring the vehicle to the consumer. Tred experts are college grads trained by the company and include many who have worked auto shows as vehicle presenters, Feek says.
The service is aimed at people with children or jobs that make it hard to find time to shop or at those “scared to confront a salesman, such as the elderly as well as those in their 20s and 30s who aren't interested in haggling, plus first-time buyers and women,” he says.
"A car is the second-biggest purchase you'll make, but often it's not a good experience. We're making it easy, simple and painless. Dealers must be aware that progress needs to be made in the ways to attract and satisfy customers and remove the pressure associated with purchasing a car.
“People ask me if we're helping dealers selling cars or consumers buying cars, and the answer is both. We make buying a car easy for customers and our early experience is that consumers who use the service buy the car 40% of the time, a very good closing rate for dealers," Feek adds.
There's no timetable for expansion to other cities. The company will keep track of those who visit the Tred website to learn where the most interest is coming from.
The startup company has received $1.7 million in seed money from such investors as formerChairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, automotive-investment firm Fraser McCombs Capital and venture-capital firm Maveron Capital, among others.