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Moving Auto Financing into the Fast Lane

August 26, 2016 | Cheryl Cross

A car is a big buying decision; for many it’s a financial commitment second only to a mortgage. The customer, having deliberated over in-car features, specifications, performance and the adequate provision of cup holders wants buying his or her chosen car to be simple and quick. The car salesperson also wants to close the deal rapidly and to feel that they’ve given their customer an overall good experience.

Unfortunately, according to Intelligent Environments, nearly half of surveyed Brits who own cars on finance say it’s the finance bit that’s one of the most difficult things about buying a new car. Not compromising on cup holders, then.

The problem is, a lot of car finance processes are old-fashioned, manual and largely paper-based. For the car-buyer who probably started their search online and conducts much of his/her affairs – including finance management – that way, it’s a step back into the ‘olden’ days.

Yet, auto finance is very big business – a huge 86 per cent of new car sales in the US are financed, equating to an auto loan balance of more than $1.06 trillion. In such a lucrative market, incumbents face increasing competition from new market entrants able to do things a different way. For both established players and those starting out, technology offers the potential for efficiency improvements.

Take renewals, for example; it makes no sense in this digital age for existing customers to have to go through a complete application process again. Huge efficiencies surely lie in a simple online renewal process, backed up by a digital approvals process with as much automation as possible.

Despite the size of today’s auto finance market, new voices are continually added to industry murmurs of new systems of car ownership. As city congestion worsens and the cost of individual car ownership goes up, shared and subscription-based options may gain popularity.

This, suggests Deloitte stands to alter auto financing. From consumer to commercial auto lending with finance extended to dealerships buying cars to offer to customers on a subscription basis. For those finance providers with business models built around dealership loans to consumers, as Deloitte points out this would entail a shift to a commercial lending model.

One thing is clear. For a market thriving in the digital age while remaining arguably less transformed by it than most, change is on the horizon for auto finance. This change may drive higher levels of digitisation, so that consumers may be better served; it may result in a re-evaluation of business models to support a new market dynamic. In the short to medium term, of course, it may probably result in both.

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