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The pandemic is changing how people buy cars forever as dealerships post virtual tours on YouTube and bring cars to customers’ homes to test drive

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  • With foot traffic to dealerships basically nonexistent, dealerships and automakers are figuring out how to adapt in a post-pandemic world, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Many are pivoting toward virtual walkthroughs and tours.
  • Automakers such as Mercedes-Benz are questioning the need for big retail spaces.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With no end in sight to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the US unemployment rate at a Depression-era-level high, people aren’t exactly rushing into car dealerships to buy cars.

Automakers and dealerships are hurting as a result. They are trying to figure out how to adapt to the current situation.

The traditional dealership model is a familiar one to many: big, open spaces with a few highly polished models on the show floor and perhaps dozens more on the lot, waiting to be taken out and test-driven. If the dealership is more upscale and luxury-focused, there will likely also be a seating area with WiFi, refreshments, comfy couches, and entertainment like magazines or television. 

But the pandemic has all but brought showroom foot traffic to a screeching halt, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing J.D. Power, it reports car sales have dropped 59% “below the level expected before the health crisis.”

As a result, dealers and automakers are scrambling to find a way to change how they’ve typically done things to suit this new reality. 

The Wall Street Journal examined a few automakers and car sales companies, including Infiniti, Volvo, Carvana, and Mercedes-Benz. 

Infiniti is using the downtime from empty showrooms to figure out how to show off its cars via videoconferencing. It’s been training salespeople on how to create virtual tours of cars. About 60% of Infiniti retailers are bringing fully sanitized cars straight to customers’ homes for test drives as well and 70% want the practice to continue even after the pandemic, Matthew Wilson, the company’s head of customer experience, told the Journal.

Volvo, too, is using tools such as virtual walkarounds and improving its websites for better user experience.

Carvana, famous for its car vending machines, is implementing social distancing at its locations.

Mercedes-Benz is questioning the need for big retail spaces.

“Do vehicle showrooms and service facilities have to be shared in the same location?” a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. “We are looking at many areas which invite the natural questions of what to keep, what to cut, and what to amplify.”

You can read the rest of the Wall Street Journal story here.

Anyway, all of this is to say that it’s still a time of enormous uncertainty and there is no automaker or dealer that has one, clear-cut way of approaching the issue.

Business Insider’s own senior transportation reporter, David Slotnick, recently picked up a new Subaru Crosstrek during the pandemic. He outlined that the local dealerships he visited in the surrounding New York City area all had varying levels of responsiveness and preparedness for selling cars during the pandemic. 

He started by researching the model he wanted and checking online inventories at different dealerships before reaching out to all of them. Most never got back to him. 

The one dealership he wound up using, Bay Ridge Subaru, was extremely responsive and had a well-polished and well-executed sales tactic ready to go. The salesperson there answered all of Slotnick’s questions over the phone or via email and sent lengthy YouTube video walkarounds of the car because they had banned test drives. 

Ordinarily, Slotnick said he would very much prefer a test drive, but after seeing how thorough the dealership was with the virtual tour, he felt much better about the situation. “Based on that, we were confident enough to put a deposit down,” he said. 

After, just to be sure, he and his wife took a Crosstrek Zipcar out for an hour to see how it felt. 

All of the subsequent paperwork — title details, registration application — were handled over email or the phone. 

On the day of picking up the car, the dealer spaced out its customers so only one party at a time was present in the dealership. Slotnick reported that everyone was wearing gloves and masks and he and his wife were shown to a freshly disinfected table and given two fresh pens. 

“They seemed very on top of [the process],” Slotnick said. 

He and his wife were able to get everything signed, figured out, and were even able to get accessories such as a bike rack fitted to their car before bringing it home that day. 

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-people-buy-cars-is-changing-due-to-coronavirus-pandemic-2020-6

Publications

Security and Sustainability Forum-With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider. 10/22/2020

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Steering Societies Beyond GDP to the SDGs

With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider

October 22, 2020

1:15 pm to 2:15 pm EDT

The next webinar in the SSF series, with ecological economist and futurist Hazel Henderson, will address how the UN SDGs can and should replace GDP as the basis for valuing society leading to an economy based on planet protection and human wellbeing. Claudine Schneider is Hazel’s guest.

GDP accounts for all the public expenditures as “debt” while ignoring the value of the assets they created. If GDP were to be corrected by including the missing asset account, these debt-to-GDP ratios would be cut by up to 50% — with a few keystrokes! Learn why money isn’t what you think it is and why that matters to life on Earth in the next two webinars with Hazel and guests.

Register

Claudine Schneider is a former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island. She was the first, and to date only, woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island. She is founder of Republicans for Integrity, which describes itself as a network of “Republican former Members of Congress who feel compelled to remind Republican voters about the fundamentals of our party and to provide the facts about incumbents’ voting records.”

October 22nd webinar with Claudine Schneider and Hazel

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

[email protected]

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

Source: https://www.ethicalmarkets.com/63564-2/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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