‘Is this for real?’ first reaction to car sale website in Kelowna
Trina Nicholson and her husband were looking to buy a new vehicle this spring.
But the thought of dealing with the car sale process at a dealership, wrangling over the final sale price, didn’t appeal to her.
“It can be an exhausting process to go through, with the dickering and mind games that go on,” said the Kelowna resident. “And you always seem to be at a disadvantage, wondering if you got the best deal you could.”
But Nicholson found an ally in her quest for a new car, a website started this spring in Kelowna called www.newcarselloff.com.
“When I first saw the website, I called them and asked, ‘Is this for real?’” Nicholson recounted.
What she saw was discount price listings for new cars at various car dealerships across B.C. and Alberta.
“It was interesting to me because I had not seen that before…it gave me some peace of mind going into a dealership, took some of the uncertainty out of it…it’s one more tool in the tool box for a consumer.”
Nicholson ended up buying a new BMW X1 at the Kelowna BMW dealership.
Rick Balkan, the founder and chief executive officer of www.newcarselloff.com, says Nicholson’s consumer experience illustrates how his website can empower car buyers to find the best deals.
At the same time, dealerships posting new cars on the site give themselves an opportunity to reach a larger marketplace and get languishing car or truck models off their lots to create room for new product.
“We looked and looked before starting up our website, but we could not find an exact replica of what we’re doing anywhere else,” Balkan said.
The unique driver, he says, is their website only deals with new cars, where the risk for the buyer is reduced compared to buying a used car.
“Whether you buy a brand new car in Kelowna or in Vancouver, the car itself and the warranty coverage that comes with it doesn’t change,” he said. “You know what you’re getting.”
Balkan launched www.newcarselloff.com on March 1, debuting it to car dealerships and consumers at the Edmonton auto show.
Balkan said the site now has 360 participating dealerships, and is about to begin actively selling to dealerships in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“Our goal is to be all the way to Newfoundland a year from now…and then we can start looking at expanding to the U.S.,” Balkan said.
Balkan, who has been involved in the car selling business for 25 years, says his website business concept is a reflection of how the Internet has changed the way cars are marketed.
“In the old days, car dealers didn’t really advertise outside of their own market areas. But with the Internet, all that has changed,” he said.
“And the auto industry is looking more at ways to directly access buyers as opposed to the traditional spray and pray advertising.”
His website offers visitors actual photos of the vehicle and relevant feature equipment listings, buyer rebates and incentives, and bottom line pricing at three per cent or less above the invoice value.
Balkan said their online business start-up model is a typical refrain from past website success stories—he and all their sales and support staff work out of their homes across two provinces.
“I picked Kelowna because that is where I live, and I want to work where I live at least at this point. There is no need for all of us to be sitting in an office. We communicate with our sales staff on Google Talk and with virtual sales meetings monthly. You don’t need to have an office to start a new business. It’s a new world.”
Anthony Lunelli, sales manager of Anthony’s Subaru in Kelowna, said Balkan’s online business model reflects the changing trends on the auto sales industry.
“Five to eight years ago, 95 per cent of our sales were to local buyers. Today, it’s probably about 70 per cent local,” Lunelli said.
“For us, we see this website as a good way to sell extra stock on our car lot that hasn’t sold.”
Lunelli says while www.newcarselloff.com has generated some traffic to their dealership, he admits there are always pros and cons about discounting, about devaluing product to compete with outside car dealers because it gives consumers more ammunition to drive a harder bargain.
“But at the end of the day, if you have a new car that hasn’t sold for whatever reason—not a popular model for this market or it has a weird colour—this is a good way to expose the car to other buyers to help move it off the lot,” Lunelli said.
Balkan says while is website is a new tool for both car dealers and buyers, he says closing the deal still remains an aspect of the car sales industry that won’t change.
“Car sales people are resilient and will find different ways to make websites like ours work for them,” he says.
“We believe in transparency for both the consumer and the dealer through the information services we offer.”
As for consumers, a website like www.newcarselloff.com is another resource to benefit from, says Nicholson.
“As consumers we are getting more savvy and more sophisticated than we used to be,” she said. “And for me, it just gave us some peace of mind.”