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The Benefits and Barriers of Implementing AI in Your Dealership – Chase Abbott, Cox Automotive

Chase Abbott, Vice President of Sales at Cox Automotive, stopped by the CBT Stage at NADA 2020 in Las Vegas to talk about how Cox’s VinSolutions is using AI (automotive intelligence) to simplify the dealership process.


Jim Fitzpatrick: How’s the show going for you so far?

Chase Abbott: Fantastic. We had our biggest day one total ever in any show.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Really?

Chase Abbott: And so the traffic’s been up. I think, was up a couple thousand over last year’s show-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, yeah.

Chase Abbott: … so it’s been a really great show for us.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Why do you think this year is so special and breaking some records?

Chase Abbott: Well, I think: technologies are changing, cutting the edge. And then, secondary: probably because it’s Las Vegas.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’ll bring the dealers out, won’t it?

Chase Abbott: Always, always.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Incredible. So what new products and features and enhancements are you guys rolling out here at VinSolutions, here at the show?

Chase Abbott: So the big one for us was… We’ve made some new enhancements to our AI tool, our automotive intelligence, where we can really… We released a dashboard. So it makes this data that we’re pulling together from Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader, and much more consumable for the salesperson. So we really doubled down on that because it’s really a technology that nobody else has out there in the industry.

Chase Abbott: And then our second big one was… We wrote the integration from Cox Automotive Digital Retailing that rolls now right into VinSolutions’ Desking. And so that-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Wow, excellent.

Chase Abbott: Yeah, absolutely. So when a customer goes online and builds their deal, that deal will now auto-flow right into Desking, and it’ll also make that a consumable way to look and see what the last thing the customer did on that VDP. So we know right where they left off, so when they come in the store, it’s a nice, warm hand-off instead of a cold pass, if you will.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I would imagine. You guys had a VinSolutions are fortunate to be under that Cox umbrella, to have all of those different integrations and all those great companies, like Kelly Blue Book-

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … and such, that Cox has, which is probably what’s led to you guys being a leader in that space. Right?

Chase Abbott: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, Cox Automotive touches 75% of all vehicle transactions. We have access to that data, and AI, for us, is really spearheaded that and taken all of those bread crumb trails that customers are leaving and put them on a silver platter, lifted them up, and then really making it consumable for dealers so they can create a great customer experience in an instant.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, which is what it’s all about today.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And you recently released a book: Accelerating Sales with Artificial Intelligence. Talk to us a little bit about that: Empowering Intelligent Tech to Improve Auto Buying Process.

Chase Abbott: Yeah, so we did the book based off the fact that we did some findings and some studies at Vin about where the industry was, where the consumer base was on AI. And what we really found was: a lot of dealers think it’s creepy, sometimes, to have AI, but at the end of the day, nobody has a problem with Amazon’s recommendation page, which is responsible for 35% of their revenues.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Is it really?

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh my God.

Chase Abbott: Or Spotify’s curated playlists.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I’m addicted to it. I hope that I’m giving those options.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely. Or if you listen to Spotify, and they come up with a curated playlist based off of what you listen to. That’s super effective-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yep, absolutely.

Chase Abbott: … and super relevant.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Chase Abbott: So we’re finding… With the book, what we really wanted to do is teach the industry that the consumers are ready for AI. The dealers tend, sometimes, to lag behind that. And we-

Jim Fitzpatrick: You think?

Chase Abbott: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: We’re always a little slow in this industry.

Chase Abbott: Being a former one, yeah. So we really wanted to educate the industry and teach that these tools are out there and available to them now. Margin compression is here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, yeah.

Chase Abbott: Right? It’s the lowest it’s ever been on the margins, right? So customer experience, then, is paramount, and these kind of tools will really allow you to have coincidence powered by technology, if that makes sense.

Jim Fitzpatrick: No, it does.

Chase Abbott: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It completely does. What are some of the specific features that dealers and salespeople can take advantage of to reap the benefits of personalization on AI? Can you give me an example?

Chase Abbott: Yeah, so one of our pieces of AI is sentiment. So we measure every incoming and outgoing email and every incoming and outgoing text, and what we’re looking for is negative or positive sentiment because no desk manager can sit there and go through every single message.

Jim Fitzpatrick: No, there’s no way.

Chase Abbott: Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: There’s no way.

Chase Abbott: And no sales person’s going to come to the desk and say, “Hey, look how PO’ed my customer is.” Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Chase Abbott: So what sentiment analysis is doing is: AI is scanning every single one of those and looking for that positive or negative sentiment. And then we’re lifting up, basically, problems and then opportunities.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And this is all automated?

Chase Abbott: All automated.

Jim Fitzpatrick: This is all AI.

Chase Abbott: Because nobody can do it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Chase Abbott: Machine learning and AI… This is where it really takes its stride because nobody can sit there and read all of this, right? It’s monotonous.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Chase Abbott: So we’re doing that. We’re allowing the sales managers to quickly digest when there’s a problem. And maybe we’re about to lose a customer forever, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Chase Abbott: Sales manager can get in there, get involved, and save that deal.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Wow.

Chase Abbott: Or there’s an opportunity, maybe a sale that needs to happen.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s right.

Chase Abbott: We can go identify that quickly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Even if you were to get the deal, but the customer is upset and that picks it up in the emails, you still are concerned about bad reviews.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So a customer might take delivery of the car, but they’re upset, but on the way out they’re already placing a review that somebody should’ve known about.

Chase Abbott: Should’ve. Or they could-

Jim Fitzpatrick: And this picks that up.

Chase Abbott: They could defect on service-

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Chase Abbott: … and you may never get them back for the service work, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Chase Abbott: Or repeat business or referral business, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Chase Abbott: So they really put a kibosh on all that if they don’t do it right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Can you describe some of the common barriers to dealership AI adoption. I mean-

Chase Abbott: Oh, yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It seems like there’s-

Chase Abbott: Yeah, no, adoption of technology in automotive is always a slippery slope, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, yeah.

Chase Abbott: So I think, like CRM, it’s akin to that. It’s usage and making sure that they use it. But what I think what happens, where the tipping point is, is when you find out that these tools will work for you, make you a much better salesperson with way less time spent, I think is really when it does, because with AI now, we’re predicting the make of the vehicle with 91% accuracy on our ready-to-buy filter.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That is incredible.

Chase Abbott: And we’re predicting the model at 51% of the time. So what’s that telling you? Am I following up on the wrong car?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right.

Chase Abbott: If they sent in a lead on a Nissan Maxima, and I know through AI they’re extremely likely to buy a Honda and they’re extremely likely to buy an Accord, why wouldn’t I follow up with an email with their Nissan stuff that they wanted, but also three pre-owned Accords at the bottom for similar choices because I know that’s what’s relevant to that consumer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That is fantastic. I mean, it’s one of those things that if a deal or sales department managers know about this, why would you not use that?

Chase Abbott: Absolutely. Because it’s a shortcut to success, and everybody loves those, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: It makes all salespeople super salespeople.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely, and we can be relevant in an instant. And the great thing about doing this with Cox Automotive is that we have these tremendously huge websites that have all these impressions and all this data. So it’s really cool if you had AI on a percentage of your customer base, but if it’s only a half a percent, it’s not very effective, right? But with Cox touching 75% of all the transactions, we have a tremendous cast net that takes up the river and really allows us to be super effective.

Jim Fitzpatrick: There’s no question about it.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: For dealers that are here at the show: make it over to Cox Automotive. Talk to Chase Abbott at VinSolutions. It’s 2020, guys. Wake up and smell the coffee. There’s technologies out there that can help you sell more cars and make more money, put more dollars in your pocket, and bring people back to the dealership after they took delivery. We all suffer from that in the industry, but there’s a solution for it. In fact, it’s VinSolutions, so… Nice segue, right?

Chase Abbott: Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So, Chase, I want to thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. It’s always a pleasure.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And we’d love to have you back after the show, do a followup and see how the show went for you.

Chase Abbott: Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great.

Chase Abbott: No problem with the camera, so you let me know.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Thanks so much.

Chase Abbott: Thank you.

CBT News
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