The use of artificial intelligence in dealerships was another topic that emerged during the discussion. Lester said he has begun to use AI to generate topics and keywords for marketing materials, and Maher said Fox is looking at how to use the technology to optimize audits of F&I transactions.
Amy Mills, executive vice president at Cox Automotive, said their focus has been on using AI to “offload and automate parts of the process that are pain points to consumers or efficiency drains for businesses.”
However, there are still “more questions than answers” regarding the full potential of the technology, Mills said, a sentiment the other panelists echoed.
The panelists also discussed consumer data and privacy in the evolution of digital retail technology. Todd Milbury, vice president of industry relations at the National Automobile Dealers Association, said dealers are at the heart of conversations about where and how to best implement digital retail practices.
“Dealers care about data privacy and security deeply because it is their customers, their neighbors,” he said.
Milbury also warned against a one-size-fits-all approach to digital retail that might inhibit the independent flexibility of a dealer.
“Dealers are very agile and they are also really good at managing expenses,” Milbury said. But “when you build fixed costs into a business because of system mandates, that works against the natural success of a dealership.