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Consider the poor auto saleperson: the source of much mistrust, the butt of countless jokes. Most of us tend to keep anyone who works on commission at arm's length, but car salespeople are flat-out loathed. In fact, a recent study showed that car salespeople are the least trusted professionals in America, ranking even below members of Congress. Ouch.
How can that perception be changed? Dealerships could do away with commissions and bonuses, for starters. Or they could follow the lead of a company called Carvana and get rid of salespeople altogether.
Carvana is an online dealership based in Atlanta, Georgia. It's claim to fame is that it allows customers to shop for cars online, secure loans online, even schedule test drives online. And when it comes time to pay up, that's often done entirely online, too.
But that wasn't forward-thinking enough for Carvana. They wanted to make the auto shopping process still faster and more high-tech. So they borrowed an idea from their neighbors at Coca-Cola and created an auto vending machine.
According to Carvana, customers set up a test drive or purchase a vehicle online before visiting the vending machine, which is located in West Midtown:
The structure provides a full digitally interactive experience complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, custom LED lighting, flat screen TV's and interactive keypads that identify customers based on unique buyer credentials provided by Carvana after the purchase has been completed. With around-the-clock pick up availability, vehicles purchased on Carvana.com will be available for test drive and pick up as early as 24-hours.
Will the idea catch on? Honestly, we'd be surprised if it didn't.
If you've ever used a car-sharing service like Zipcar, you know how simple and easy it can be -- especially compared to a traditional rental car outlet. And while we understand the urge for some people to camp out at the Apple Store, waiting for the next smartphone to go on sale, most of us would rather spend the night in bed and order it online in the morning.
This is all part of a larger trend of removing humans -- who can be unpredictable and error-prone -- from the sales process. If you do a lot of shopping on the web, your run-ins with sales staff may already be minimal. Even in brick-and-mortar outlets like hardware stores with self-checkout lanes, today's staffers can seem like the B Team, not front-line personnel. Restaurants may soon follow.
Is buying a car really that different? When you're looking for a new ride, do you learn a lot from your salesperson, or do you walk in knowing about the vehicle and just want a test drive to confirm your suspicions, hopes, and/or fears? Let us know in the comments below.