After the successful launch in Germany, heycar is now also represented in Great Britain as a brand-independent used car platform. Around 1,300 car dealer groups in Germany now use heycar as a platform to sell their vehicles online. Among them is the dealership Hotz und Heitmann in Wolfsburg. Gregor Brylla, one of the firm's sales managers for used cars, talks about his experience with heycar. He points up the competitive advantages of the platform, but he also sees obstacles and room for improvement. As far as Brylla is concerned, however, heycar is first and foremost a good investment in the future.
Gregor Brylla is a car salesman through and through. Together with his father, he was already scanning through newspapers for advertisements during his school days to find potential vehicles for his family's used-car business. In those days, his first stop was the telephone booth. That's how he made contact with the seller and heard a description of the vehicle in question. If the offer sounded promising, he set out to take a look. He came face-to-face with the car itself for the first time where it was parked. "It was an adventure every single time. A previous description often fell short of matching the actual vehicle in all its "glory". Some sellers were more than willing to conceal the one or other dent or defect." Despite a negative experience now and again, father and son became a successful team. Today, true to his vocation, Brylla is sales manager for used cars at Hotz und Heitmann in Wolfsburg and, as he points out, practically everything has changed in his milieu since he started out. "Newspaper ads are no longer relevant when looking for used cars," as the 47-year-old sales professional observes. "Today, we exploit all the opportunities given to us by popular used-car exchanges to offer our vehicles online on the Internet. That's where the customers look for their cars in this day and age."
This transformation has made buying much easier for the customer. Making comparisons with the help of photos and videos lets buyers know graphically what they can expect. Familiar used-car marketplaces such as mobile.de and AutoScout24 have built up a duopoly position for themselves in Germany over recent years. But Volkswagen Financial Services plan to be more than a match for them with their heycar premium concept – an approach that is not just customer-friendly, but also dealer-focused. "With heycar we dealers have the chance to help shape the future," as Brylla explains the advantages he sees. "We're always in close contact with those responsible and we're always being asked for our feedback".
Buying a car with heycar
The car dealership Hotz und Heitmann offers every one of its used cars on several different online platforms. Its current 3,795 used cars include 2,797 that meet the quality criteria imposed by heycar. The listing of the vehicles online has not been carried out manually for ages. After further information has been supplemented to describe the vehicle and after the dealer has calculated an appropriate price, a software system checks the data and exports the ads to the various platforms. Only photos still have to be added. The 19 salespeople then process the enquiries received either by phone or e-mail.
Brylla describes the sequence of events as follows: "In the case of the heycar platform, the customer initially receives an automatic response containing the contact details of the seller involved. At the same time, the respective seller receives an e-mail informing him or her that the customer wishes to be contacted. The seller is then available to the customer by phone or otherwise with help and advice." If an interested party decides in favor of the car, he or she can have a look at it again in situ – or not, as the case may be. "There are customers prepared to buy a car without viewing it first. This is meanwhile common procedure." Especially with regard to the relatively new cars listed on heycar, customers have a secure confidence in their quality. "Still, most of them don't want to miss out on a personal handover – that's always an experience for itself." A dealer also offers the option of delivering a purchased vehicle directly to the customer's home. But as Brylla says: "It hardly happens these days that customers don't come to us in one form or another."
Experiences with heycar
With regard to the number of vehicles sold, heycar is still well behind their competitors as far as Hotz und Heitmann is concerned. "heycar is still fresh on the market. AutoScout24 and mobile.de also started up with the same kind of results," Brylla argues. When asked why he's still so interested in the online marketplace, he answers: "There are dealers who say that heycar isn't worth the effort, that it doesn't pay off, but we see it as an investment in the future. We're willing to give the platform some time to establish itself. What's more, somebody has to stand up against mobile.de and AutoScout24."
Brylla enjoys a lively exchange of views and ideas with heycar, in contrast to the communication that takes place with its competitors. "Feedback is requested time and again and of course we're happy to play our part. The others aren't calling for our input anymore."
As an example, the sales manager mentions a change in how contact is made via the telephone. "To help heycar track the number of calls it receives, the customer did not reach us directly, but was forwarded via heycar and had to enter a PIN mentioned in the advert." The customer looked at an ad, dialed the number and was then in telephone mode and no longer able to look at the advertisement per se. "That was too complicated." Although customers are more likely to call online marketplaces by phone than write e-mails, the number of calls has fallen, he explains. "heycar reacted to the feedback from the dealers in this matter and the proportion of telephone calls has been rising again since then," says Brylla.
As an online platform powered by the resources of a financial captive, heycar naturally offers considerable opportunities on which we rely.
On the other platforms dealers pay a fee per day and car, at heycar they pay according to sales. Sales must therefore be reported to heycar. This is still something that is currently entered manually. "Because we aren't selling sell many cars via heycar at the moment, this is no trouble. But we need an automated model to deal with times when we have more sales," says Brylla in anticipation.
Particularly with regard to online retailing, many dealers see potential for improvement in the handling and processing of customer financing. "If my salespeople have to print out 100 pages for a financing contract, that's much too complicated. We want this process to be much simpler – paperless if possible," says Brylla. He adds: "There are people nowadays who carry out the purchasing of their cars completely online. Needless to say, we also need payment and financing options that can reflect that in comfort and convenience."
In view of his salesroom area with space for around 700 cars, the sales manager has a number of thoughts about the future of the stationary used-car business. He sees heycar as a possible future scenario. "That our customers can also deal without their dealer in future is, of course, a worry. But ultimately, we have to swim with the tide and see what part of the cake we can grab. As an online platform powered by the resources of a financial captive, heycar naturally offers considerable opportunities on which we rely." That's why Brylla thinks it's important to support heycar in its current development. As he explains: "At the moment it's more like work and effort that we have to invest in heycar – quantifying, reporting, and conducting feedback discussions. But we see a future in this platform and, in some way, we feel it to be 'ours'. We want to bring this through together".