Sonic Automotive, Inc. Has Modified Plans for EchoPark

Echo Park Automotive, a Sonic Automotive location still under construction, in Charlotte, NC.

Sonic Automotive, Inc. opened its first EchoPark Automotive store in late 2014 and the company now operates seven locations scattered throughout Colorado and Texas. Despite initial plans to open three new locations in Houston, Texas, the company has decided to refine its strategy after obtaining customer input as well as analyzing the end result of acquiring other dealerships that only sell used cars. Instead of planning for a few smaller locations, John Downey of the Charlotte Business Journal reported that Sonic is now planning on opening a new location in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as one in Houston at the end of 2018.

The executive vice president of operations at Sonic, Jeff Dyke, stated that this move “reduces complexity” and will let the company make more money because it will only need to maintain one location, which will create “simplicity.” He also indicated that the company owns enough property to add additional locations if needed in the future. This includes a probable location in San Antonio, Texas, as well as another one in an unspecified location. If things turn out the way the company hopes they will, 2020 will see numerous expansions and new stores. A Stephens Inc. analyst noted that Sonic’s acquisition of Driversselect in 2017 provided a huge amount of inventory and has contributed to the company’s modifications in its plans.

According to an August 27, 2018 article from Automotive News, another part of the updated plans is a new app that will be deployed in September called CarCash. This app will gather information about consumers’ trim options, mileage, and overall condition. The app is made to be very easy to use and simply involves inputting the vehicle’s information, scanning the vehicle identification number (VIN), and taking between nine and 11 photos of the car. Sonic expects the process to only take an average of ten minutes. The CarCash app will be up front about trade-in value, providing users with an actual number instead of playing “games” like other companies do.

Dyke stated the app will also assist EchoPark in gaining inventory by allowing customers to check the trade-in value on the app and subsequently bring their vehicles straight to the store. Of course, Sonic is optimistic that more inventory will bring more customers, with Dyke stating the goal is to sell 1,200 to 1,500 cars a month. In today’s society and economy, more and more consumers are preferring to shop online, as it is easy, quick, and can be done from any location. Sonic believes that the CarCash app will bring in many consumers who would prefer to not have to go into a store to get a quote for their trade-ins.

EchoPark also has plans for a pilot program called Digital One Stop, which will be an online tool at the New Braunfels, Texas location that can be used to shop for used vehicles.  EchoPark partnered with Capital One to create the tool that customers can use to finance pre-approval on certain deals as well as request and receive an appraisal if they plan on trading in their current vehicles. The goal of this program is to make the car buying process easier, as customers can complete most of it online and only need to go into a brick-and-mortar store to provide signatures.  The goal is to make almost 100% of the buying process online, which saves consumers hours of negotiations and paperwork that they might spend at a dealership.

Overall, EchoPark’s business has been booming lately, and the company is hoping that rolling out the new plans will show a huge profit in 2019.