Autonomy, electrification, ride-sharing: tomorrow's auto industry is going to look very different from today's. Some automakers and dealers are fighting the tide of change tooth and nail; others, like Tesla, are charging headlong into the unknown, often without much success.
A new app called Honcker takes a middle path: though it relies on a network of conventional dealerships, it leverages the power of smartphones to make getting that new car a breeze--at least for shoppers who'd rather lease than buy.
Good for consumers
It works like this: dealerships join the Honcker network and upload their inventory of vehicles. Consumers browse those inventories on their smartphones using the Honcker app. When shoppers find a vehicle they like, they indicate to Honcker that they'd like to explore lease options.
Honcker then runs a soft credit check on the shopper, using her name, address, and other info. This kind of check shouldn't show up on credit reports and shouldn't impact a consumer's credit scores. (At dealerships, that's not always the case, though.) After the shopper accepts Honcker's lease offer, the app conducts a more thorough, hard credit check and makes the lease official.
Arguably the best part about Honcker is that many consumers can carry out the entire lease process on their phones, without venturing to the dealership where the car is located. If you live within 25 miles of the showroom, the dealer will deliver the car to you, free of charge. When it arrives, you'll sign the lease paperwork, and if you need to return the car you've been leasing, the delivery person may be able to take it off your hands. (For additional details, read the helpful FAQ.)
Good for dealers, too
The interesting thing about Honcker is that it doesn't bypass dealerships, it simply makes the dealerships in its network more mobile- and web-friendly. Not only do the cars that get leased come from dealer inventories, but the leases themselves typically run through dealers' financing arms.
That seems like a huge win. Consumers are increasingly comfortable with making all kinds of purchases online, including cars. Some people are so use to the convenience of online shopping that they're even willing to forego test drives.
And yet, the auto industry has been slower than many others in making the shift to online sales. That's not unexpected: a car is a very expensive purchase, and most consumers still want to see their prospective ride in person before buying it. But that doesn't mean that other portions of the shopping and sales process can't move online.
Unfortunately, developing websites and sales portals can be very, very expensive, and many shops don't have the necessary time, money, or bandwidth. In such cases, Honcker may be a useful alternative.
Honcker's network of dealers is currently limited to a handful of U.S. regions--namely, the New York/New Jersey area and southern California--but the company has plans to expand its footprint soon. It's also planning to offer traditional financing, for shoppers who'd rather buy than lease.
Does Honcker sound like the sort of service you'd use? Sound off in the comments below.