Cars.com is partnering with RepairPal in part to encourage consumers to return to the Cars.com website more often, CEO Mitch Golub says.
Millions of people visit the online automotive marketplace when shopping for a new or used car, and “typically they’ll come back every two or three years,” he tells WardsAuto.
“By developing our partnership with RepairPal, we can extend that relationship on a regular basis. There has to be something that serves customers and dealers, but this is a natural extension of what we do at Cars.com, which is offer consumers trust, transparency and advice.”
RepairPal provides online price estimates for auto service work, advice from certified mechanics and a directory of facilities that meet its standards, says the company’s founder and CEO Art Shaw.
Vehicle-buying websites are numerous, “but how much content on the web do you see about service?” he says. “It is very scarce.”
On average, 76% of dealership profits come from fixed operations, according to the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
“People own cars an average of 11 years, and a typical warranty is three to five years,” Shaw tells WardsAuto. “Most people are out of warranty for most of their car ownership.
“It’s critical they have access to high-quality independent information about repairs, maintenance advice and associated costs.”
Golub adds: “When it comes to maintaining a vehicle, there is a lot of confusion among consumers. We see an opportunity to transform the repair category and provide vehicle owners with the same credible advice they have come to depend on us for when it comes time to service or repair their car.”
While service work offers strong profit margins, it’s an area where dealers are losing business. A misperception is that dealers’ prices are too high for repair work, Golub says. “They’re not, and Art’s site has proven that. Franchised dealers operate the best shops in what is an $8 billion marketplace.”
For years, Cars.com has sought to include extensive repair information. A couple initiatives stalled. “We could never find the right value proposition, until Art came up with one for dealers and consumers,” Golub says.
Cars.com’s investment in RepairPal builds on a co-branded content partnership. Since 2009, RepairPal has been a content partner on Cars.com.
It soon will play a bigger role and assume a greater presence on Cars.com, but details of that remain in the works, Golub says.
“We’re still working on that side of the business,” he says. “We have a large, dedicated team at Cars.com working with a large, dedicated team at RepairPal to figure out how one plus one can equal three.”
On the auto-sales side, Cars.com launched PowerDrive at the annual National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention in Orlando this month.
The new marketing product for franchise dealers offers enhanced dealer-inventory content and features such as dealership-branded videos and reputation-management tools.
“Given that price and the availability of incentives and rebates continue to be two of the most important attributes for new-car shoppers, it was important that PowerDrive give dealers a feature to leverage this information,” says Nick Hummer, Cars.com’s director-new car strategy.
Promoting incentives, discounts, lease specials and the like “helps tell a more complete story about why a shopper should buy from a particular store,” he says.
Today’s consumers do most of their car shopping and research online, rather than going from dealership to dealership, Hummer says.
“On average, they only visit 1.3 dealerships,” he tells WardsAuto. “Consumers are busy, and increasingly they’re choosing to do as much of their shopping as possible online.”
Becoming an important part of the online shopping experience are videos featuring both inventory and the dealership itself, Hummer says. “Video is the closest thing to visiting a dealership in person.”