The Benefits of Incorporating Insurance Shopping into the Car Buying Experience – Austin Ledgerwood, Cover Genius


A criticism dealers often hear from customers is that it takes too long to buy a car. However, there are plenty of ways to cut down on buying times and alleviate customer frustration. One of those ways in to better facilitate the insurance shopping process right there in the dealership, so customers can walk away with seamless coverage that very day. Here to discuss the ways in which dealerships can vastly improve this process, is Austin Ledgerwood, Head of Strategic Partnerships for Mobility in the Americas at Cover Genius, a global insurance distribution platform.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us on another edition of CBT News. Today, we’re happy to have in our studio Mr. Austin Ledgerwood, who is head of strategic partnerships for mobility of the Americas at Cover Genius. That’s a pretty cool name. What is Cover Genius?

Austin Ledgerwood: So Cover Genius is this great company that started out of Australia. The two founders, Angus McDonald and Chris Bayley, are former eBay and Amazon executives that looked at how insurance is handled from a rental car perspective, travel perspective. And so they’ve created this really dynamic API and platform that takes information from the consumer and returns the ideal product for you. So whether that’s through renting a car or obtaining car insurance or securing a trip protection or buying something from Amazon, it really gives a dynamic product to the person, not just the aggregate person, kind of the average. It gives it specific to Jim if it needs to.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Nice, nice. Car insurance hasn’t been one of the areas that dealerships typically played in. They would do everything else: credit, life insurance, and disability insurance, and tire and wheel, and battery, and extended warranties on the vehicle themselves, and all of that. But when it came to car insurance, typically they would go, “Eh, you’re kind of on your own, Mr. Customer.” Right?

Austin Ledgerwood: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s created this… There’s a big drive in the industry for that stickiness experience. You have an individual who now has to go outside of your process to secure something that may be as much as a third of their car payment.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Could be.

Austin Ledgerwood: Some scenarios maybe half depending on a lot of factors.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right, and driving a record.

Austin Ledgerwood: Yes, yes, absolutely. So from a dealer’s perspective, offering up insurance, much like they do all the insurance products you talked about, is another way to keep that customer engaged and really be that full-value provider to that consumer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Yeah. And there’s been many customers, I know in my own experience in the auto industry, that would say, “This all sounds great, but I really want to find out what my insurance is going to run me. Is it going to be more, is it going to be less? What does that look like before I can commit? I had a 10-year-old vehicle with no car payment, no balance on it, and now I’m buying this bright new, shiny whatever for $37,000, average price of a new car today. And how much more is that going to cost me?”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Under platform like this, they can do all of that right at the dealership, correct?

Austin Ledgerwood: 100%. So the key piece is that when it returns the information to them, it takes into account all the different factors that you just mentioned, but then also provides them an aggregate of providers. So it goes from the same… I’ve used State Farm for forever. So for me, when I bought a car, I just called my agent, or State Farm, and said, “Hey, I have this.” I didn’t shop. I don’t know if they’d be the cheapest or if I had the best protection in that scenario.

Austin Ledgerwood: I also am very fortunate to have a lot of determining factors that helped me get a good rate. If I’m an individual with adverse credit in some scenarios or I’m buying a high-risk car, I may not know that there are other rates, different factors that can help drive that cost down or get me the right protection.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. So this brings it up almost like a travel site would tell you all the best rates at different hotels. Almost like a Trivago would do with hotels.

Austin Ledgerwood: Absolutely. One of the interesting comparisons that I’ve gotten is what about the commercial The General? Which I think commercials are hilarious, with Shaquille and the little cartoon character.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, yeah, yeah. For sure.

Austin Ledgerwood: So if you go through that process and you input your information, you’re going to get maybe five to six phone calls from different insurance companies.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, that’s for sure. That’s right.

Austin Ledgerwood: Probably going to have about 30 to 40 emails.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Kind of like Lending Tree makes it sound so easy, but man, your phone never stops ringing. Because they can sell that lead out.

Austin Ledgerwood: And you’re really creating a new experience to have to sort through all these different things. And I have another job to just drive my car, where if I’m able to secure the insurance before I leave, which I’m supposed to have before I leave the dealership. There are some grace periods, but I’m supposed to have coverage when I leave the lot. Why not have it as part of the process, because I’m taking the information from the dealership and sending over the insurance so they can send the information I just gave them back to the dealership.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Is it not 2019? I thought we were beyond this point with data.

Austin Ledgerwood: Exactly, exactly. Yes. But it’s really about creating that experience that they’re all chasing. They’ve all pushed into this digital landscape to where I can negotiate the deal oftentimes before I even come in. So it’s just one more facet to offer to your consumer that say, “Hey, this is easy. We’ve made it easy, so you don’t have to call and haggle.” And for the dealer, that consumers still had … I throw this around, sticky. They really have that consumers’ attention. They really have that consumer’s buy in that this is a full service dealership. And that’s going to translate to recommendations as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And now, with digital retailing really on the upswing, more people are looking at doing the entire transaction online. Dealers are certainly making bigger inroads in this area as well. They’re getting their staff ready, they’re getting their technologies ready, they’re getting literally the dealership ready, physically, just to do more of the entire sales process online and perhaps just delivering the vehicle right to the consumer’s front door. This kind of goes hand in hand with that, doesn’t it?

Austin Ledgerwood: No, absolutely. If you look at programs like Carvana and Fair, both of them have insurance in some way incorporated with their website. It’s not as dynamic. They’ll have a single partner. So if you like Liberty Mutual, Liberty Mutual’s got you covered, which is a great company. But you don’t have the ability to really see everything that’s out there.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. How many insurance companies are you affiliated with that I can get a quote from?

Austin Ledgerwood: So we’re affiliated with all of the major carriers, several international underwriters. So we really have partnered with everyone we can. They’re all willing to provide their products because they see the value in being able to buy their products everywhere. So you’d be amazed at how many carriers reach out to you-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, I bet. I bet.

Austin Ledgerwood: …when you have something as slick as we do.

Jim Fitzpatrick: When the market is 12 or 17 million new vehicles being sold-

Austin Ledgerwood: Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: …and another 40 million used vehicles and beyond, when you take into account independence and such, you’re certainly filling the need there that has been overlooked for quite some time.

Austin Ledgerwood: Absolutely. And if you look at it, a lot of the new car ownership alternatives, so companies like Flexdrive, they have insurance included. So Hyundai has their Hyundai program, which if you purchase a car, or lease the car, they can also provide insurance as part of the payments. So they’re all getting to that point, it’s just making sure the consumer has every bit of visibility into what products are available to them.

Austin Ledgerwood: If you look at a lot of the different digital channels now to purchase car, like Tesla, they have it to where you can secure insurance, but you have to click a link and go to another page. All you’re doing is replicating the, “Hey, let me go make a phone call, call my agent real quick, and I’ll have them fax you the information.” It should be just part of the process. It should be part of, “Hey, I can see. Here’s the product for me,” and move forward.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s right. And hopefully they’re not faxing this information anymore, but I know what you-

Austin Ledgerwood: I promise you they are. I promise you they are. I promise you, “Hey, here’s.” They still give the fax number.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s right. It’s crazy when I see that. I’m like, really? We still faxing? 2019? That’s pretty cool. Well Austin Ledgerwood, head of strategic partnerships for mobility of the Americas at Cover Genius, thank you so much for joining us on CBT News. This has been enlightening. Probably an area that we’re going to hear a lot more about. As more consumers move online to do the entire transaction, they got to cover that car insurance element. So thanks for coming in. Congratulations on your article in Automotive News. It was great, and that’s how we heard of you. So we wanted to bring in, and you guys are … well, you’re local, right here in Atlanta, so it makes it easy for our studios.

Austin Ledgerwood: Yes, yes. Hey, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you.