Alex Vetter is the CEO of Cars.com.
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Kyle Mountsier: 0:00This is in the dirt with a soda.Paul Daly: 0:04
Okay, we are here at the cars booth with the one and only CEO Alex better. Nice to have you. Thanks for giving us a few minutes.
Thanks for being here, guys.
Paul Daly: 0:12
The ecosystem that you've built around this street corner specifically is is a pretty happening spot like you're divided by several roads. It almost feels like a city occupation.
It's grown quite a bit over the years, hasn't it? It has.
Kyle Mountsier: 0:25
Yeah, what was what was the go back to the first booth that you guys ever had? How long? How long ago was that? What did it feel like look like?
Paul Daly: 0:33
He's like, you want to see my briefcase.
Alex Vetter: 0:34
It was backed by a dark closet. I think the janitor's closet was next to where we are, it
Kyle Mountsier: 0:39
was bigger. No,
Alex Vetter: 0:40
and it wasn't, it wasn't let's just say, a very popular destination back in the day
Paul Daly: 0:47
was the first na da Do you remember your first trip
Alex Vetter: 0:50
was to see what San Francisco would have been one of the first big exhibits. But prior to that was I believe New Orleans was one of the early ones. And let's just say it again wasn't something people took seriously back then it was like what the digital guys who are these people? And now it looks like a software convention. Right? I mean, there's a theme for this year. I mean, technology is leading the
Kyle Mountsier: 1:17
Yeah, no, I think that's what's interesting way. is because like from those early days, like the progression of Cars.com, has looked a lot different than maybe a lot of people would have like if someone was just saying what's Cars.com looked like 25 years from now I don't think a lot of people would have Zhan and throwing this out there. But you've progressed in this way that is constantly adopted new technology. What was that kind of initial turning point that said, Hey, we're gonna continue to adopt the most forward thinking digital technology?
Alex Vetter: 1:48
Well, look, I think we've always kept the user at the center of our ecosystem. And if the user has a pain point, we want to solve it. And importantly, we want to solve it on behalf of the dealership. And so when you think about the user journey over the last, you know, decade, they want to save time, they want to save money, they want a better experience. And so we're helping dealerships improve those things, delivering it in a technology centric way, which is ultimately what customers are expecting in 2023. Right, they don't want to see things the way it used to be they want to imagine a more digitally driven future,
Paul Daly: 2:25
you have a unique perspective, given the fact that as a two sided marketplace, and also DealerRater, getting first party comments and ratings from consumers, from a high level, can you explain what you're seeing from a consumer sentiment standpoint, and also a consumer desire for what they want the process to be?
Alex Vetter: 2:44
He has those things, right, they want to save time, they want to save money, and they want a better experience and DealerRater you know, what it helps dealers do is identify where they're falling down in delivering a great experience. And by harvesting that data and giving it to the dealer, they can see where they need to improve their customer experience. And so I encourage the dealers that are here at the show or even back home watching, you know, contact Cars.com, we can give you insights in terms of how your dealership is performing relative to other dealers in your in your market, and using that data to elevate pain points that the customer is saying to other shoppers, you know, you want to put your best foot forward.
Yeah, you know, we were we were sitting at lunch a little over a year and a half ago, we were at Brian Pasch's event. And I'll never forget this. And I've been meaning to like go back to this point with you and just kind of like jam around it a little bit. Because you're we're just all imagining you're like, okay, at that point, it's always every single year. There's always others what's going to happen next year, what's going to happen next year, and you said something that caught me you're like, Well, who does auto have to look to right? As far as like the next thing where we're headed to indicator we we said maybe, you know, maybe homes and mortgages and things like that are an indicator. But it seems like autos really becoming an indicator for a lot more industries. And even in the just the last year, we've become an indicator for industry at Broad I mean, even just thinking about like large like automakers coming into the space, the way interest rates are affecting auto when you're looking at the the indicators that auto is now having because you have this massive look across multiple platforms to party marketplaces. What are the indicators that you're looking at heading as
Alex Vetter: 4:32
can tell you 2023 is going to be a much better well? Look, I year than people are predicted. We see that in consumer demand. We've got 25 million people coming to Cars.com every month. And we're not seeing that demand wane in fact, we're the most traffic marketplace in the ecosystem. And so I'm able to see the bulk of the auto market is very looking forward to a great year this year. Consumers have moved spending from other categories and they're investing in their In their personal fleets like people want to see the new product this year, it's exciting. We see rich consumer demand. Definitely there's interesting EV is the fastest growing category that we're seeing. But really, we're seeing increased demand across the entire ecosystem, new used, you know, all classes of vehicles, there's a healthy market to be had, if the retailers are leaning into that technology first.
Paul Daly: 5:25
So there's a lot of conversation going on about buying cars off the curb, right? It's been a growing area of focus over the last 12 months. What are you seeing in the acquisition side of the business and how dealers are working in software and tools into their operational flow?
Alex Vetter: 5:41
Well, first and foremost, we know that the customer is going to sell their car are expecting a better experience. Number one, they want a data driven valuation, not a a number that comes out of thin air. Well, I
Paul Daly: 5:54
don't know you got it right. So
Alex Vetter: 5:56
so consumers are expecting to tell me what my car is worth and tell me with an informed view. And with accutrade, we're giving dealers that technology right, so often, consumers leave the dealership frustrated at the number that they were given, but have no context. And with accutrade, now we're giving the dealerships the tools to show the customer, your vehicle is worth this, because of these reasons. Let me show you what we need to replace on the car. Let me show you what other similar cars are comped in the market. So now the customer is showing that seeing the dealer as the hero as opposed to the the person that they should not trust,
Paul Daly: 6:36
right, like, Oh, we're working like I'm being worked.
Kyle Mountsier: 6:38
I love what you said. You said it. You said that the word comped caught me there. It's the very first time that I think I've heard someone in the auto space say comps, right. But everybody when they're buying a house, it's like what are the comps in the area? Right? I think that's language that we should adopt as
Paul Daly: 6:55
Ray point. I've never heard that in automotive either, but everyone understands it.
Alex Vetter: 6:58
The consumer wants to see you know those comparables and by doing it with data in a format. Now the dealer is an advisor, a trust agent. And then I think that's so much what we need to do as an industry is to be retail technology driven to accelerate velocity of this industry. We're watching dealerships use Accutrade go from taking what typically takes 45 minutes to get the customer through the appraisal process down to four minutes. And so dealerships now are realizing I can process so many more transactions and move people through my cycle, that now I can give everybody in my service Lane a real time vehicle offer before they leave the store. And by doing that consistently, repeatedly, repeatedly, the consumer is becoming much more of the story that consumers can trust. And they don't have to drive 45 minutes to some mythical place to get a better deal. It's happening right here in a customer's backyard.
Paul Daly: 7:57
You've already been you've always been a massive advocate about putting giving the dealers more power in the process and focusing the whole business toward like, how can we make that endpoint, the hero of the entire narrative? What are you seeing with that? And kind of the trajectory you're moving in? 2023?
Alex Vetter: 8:15
Well, look, I think the dealers that are leading with technology are communicating directly that that I'm the place you want to be
Paul Daly: 8:24
when you say the dealer is leading with technology, what do you mean by that?
Alex Vetter: 8:27
They're doing online financing, they're not making you sit down and negotiate that they're showing you a digital menu of banks and what they'll give you in terms of your overall credit worthiness and your monthly payment. They're doing that online in a way where the consumer feels that am empowered and I'm in control on the trade-in side with accutrade. They're giving them real time data and, and a display of what the car is really worth. They're they're leading with reputation showing that I'm a five star rated service operation, you want to buy this new 2023 Toyota from me not down the street, because I'm the number one service, you know, ranking dealership in my region. And when I say leading with technology, it's being where people are expected to be which is out in the open. Yeah.
Kyle Mountsier: 9:19
I love it. Well, Alex, we could probably sit here and talk for hours and hours. Always a pleasure hanging out with you. Your insights for the industry and your care for dealers and consumers are not equal to in so many parts of our industry. So thanks for sharing.
Alex Vetter: 9:33
Well listen to your viewers out there. We're here for you. Come see us at the booth cars.com booth or reach out to me at email@example.com We're happy to talk to you and keep the conversation going.
Paul Daly: 9:43
I love that you give me your email. I look at that. Thank you so much.
Thanks, guys. Appreciate you. Appreciate you sir. Thank you guys.
Kyle Mountsier: 9:50
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