Q & A With Adam Slobin, CEO of DriveWise Auto:
- What are the perks of buying or leasing a car from DriveWise Auto vs. a traditional car dealership?
- Slobin: Vehicles have become extremely commoditized, so getting a great price on a vehicle has become relatively simple. With that commoditization, however, dealership inventories have become smaller, availability of vehicles has become limited, and customer service has gone by the wayside. DriveWise Auto provides a platform where people can buy/lease the car they actually want, still get a competitive price, have a great customer experience, and be socially responsible by taking advantage of our Charity Driven platform.
- Describe the make-up of your ideal customer.
- Slobin: For most of us, life has become very fast-paced. We're all moving quickly, have a lot of things on our plates, and more important things to do than research and find vehicles. Not to mention the time it takes to engage in a traditional auto-buying experience. Our ideal customer is anyone who is looking for a new or used vehicle (purchase or lease), and who wants to have a hassle-free experience that actually makes the car-buying experience a pleasure -- but who doesn't want to give up getting a competitive price.
- What are the daily challenges of owning a business such as DriveWise Auto?
- Slobin: The truth is that we often find ourselves fighting the uphill battle of disproving false or misleading information that comes to our clients through other avenues they explore during the research phase of their automobile purchase or lease. We find that they are given information that is seemingly sound, but that is ultimately incomplete or wrong. We face the challenge of helping them understand that the information is wrong and why, and how information that they get from us is always upfront, honest and transparent.
- How are you able to donate proceeds from each sale -- and keep your profit margins in tact?
- Slobin: On average, the typical car buyer leases or purchases one vehicle every three to five years. We move far more than that, and repeatedly use the same suppliers to source vehicles for our clientele. As a result, those suppliers narrow their margins substantially on each vehicle, thereby affording us the opportunity to acquire them for our clients at a lower cost than they'd traditionally find on their own, and maintain our own profit margin.
- Which charities have benefitted the most from your services?
- Slobin: DriveWise Auto has made contributions to countless local and national charitable organizations (such as Autism Speaks, American Cancer Society and City of Hope), each of which has been chosen by our clients. To date, we have donated nearly $125,000. Every time we sell or lease a vehicle, we make a charitable contribution to the charity chosen by the vehicle buyer or lessee. Where our contribution goes is their choice, not ours.
In addition, we continue to support their charity of choice with additional contributions every time they refer someone who also chooses to do business with us. It's our way of "paying it forward" and a platform that connects consumers to their cars, and the communities they care about.
- How does a business such as yours stay relevant in a down economy?
- Slobin: In a down economy, our not having brand-specific ties or biases allows us to cater to the needs of any buyer, regardless of their budgetary needs or constraints. Because we're not tied to any particular make, model or manufacturer, we have the ability to help people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Our process allows us to truly help people make decisions that make sense for their lives and their specific needs.
- Where do your customer leads come from?
- Slobin: Most of our clients come to us organically, and are referred (in some way) by their family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, who have used our services and been happy enough that they feel compelled to spread the word. That may sound simple, but in today's social media environment "spreading the word" means that our clients are posting on websites like Yelp and Facebook, blogging about us, posting on chat boards, sending out mass emails to their co-workers and friends ... Recognizing this, and knowing it's our reputation that brings that business to us, we try our best to make sure that everyone who chooses DriveWise Auto has an experience that compels them to do the same.
- How do you handle test drives with your customers?
- Slobin: Because we don't hold our own inventory, we recommend that our clients visit manufacturer franchises to touch, feel and test drive the vehicles they're interested in. We help them strategize around those visits so that they have a decent experience test driving the cars ... without misleading anyone about their intentions to test-drive a car while continually encouraging their own research process.
- Any new trends you can speak to in car buying/leasing?
- Slobin: With used cars holding their values so much better than they have in the past, we are finding a resurgence of short-term leases. Twenty-four- and 27-month lease programs have historically generated higher lease payments than longer 36- and 48-month lease terms, but we have found recently that some manufacturers are putting out programs that yield lower lease payments for shorter term leases than those that are longer. Additionally, we're finding more and more manufacturers hopping on the "zero down lease" bandwagon. From an advertising perspective, these programs sound very attractive. What most people don't realize, though, is that (based on creditworthiness), any lease can be a "zero down" lease.
- How is your industry changing for the better? The worse?
- Slobin: The auto industry has been around for a long time, and so too has the culture that people have come to expect from it. With information about vehicles and pricing having become so accessible, vehicles have become a commodity like so many other products, but their availability has become limited as has the focus on the customer experience.
For DriveWise Auto, and because of our niche business model and ethic, that makes doing business for us that much better. Through more traditional means, consumers know that they'll get a good price. But, they also know they might not have a great experience, and might not find the car they actually want. Through us, they'll get all three, so where commoditization might not be good for a traditional dealership, it's been great for us.
DriveWise Auto currently operates out of California, but hopes to soon expand to work with clients on a national level.
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