Vantage Point: Brave new Web

Jan. 1, 2020
You've seen it all by now, competitively speaking. Your competition ranges from retailers like Pep Boys that have service bays to new car dealerships that can't survive on shrinking new vehicle sales margins and new businesses that offer unique servi

You've seen it all by now, competitively speaking. Your competition ranges from retailers like Pep Boys that have service bays to new car dealerships that can't survive on shrinking new vehicle sales margins and new businesses that offer unique services such as real-time, in-the-bay repair progress via the repairer's Web site.

Well, let me start over. You haven't seen everything. More than likely, you haven't heard of what I'm going to lay on you now. You probably won't be surprised to hear that it involves the Internet, but you might be surprised with the specifics.

What got my attention about this new business model, designed to compete with you (and surprisingly, to also benefit you; more about that later), was something that always gets my attention: a company claiming that it wants to "revolutionize how people view and purchase automotive service."

This "vision" assumes that there is something wrong with the way automotive service is viewed and purchased. Having its share of bad publicity and its reliance on word-of-mouth advertising, one can surely see how vulnerable the vehicle repair business is to being revolutionized.

The company behind the message is the International Automotive Network (IANAuto). Simply, consumers can go to its Web site (www.ianauto.com) for a diagnosis and cost of repair for their vehicles from pre-screened repair shops that sign up as members of IANAuto.

What might be racing through your mind is something similar to what Steve Hoellein, president of Felt Auto Parts in Ogden, Utah, had to say when asked about online auto repair quotes. Hoellein, who was interviewed by Aftermarket Business, one of our sister publications, said, "You wouldn't e-mail a doctor and say, 'My leg hurts. Tell me what's wrong and how much it will cost me to fix it.' So why would you do that with your car?"

Seems like the perfect reasoning to write off IANAuto. Well, that is in a perfect world that doesn't want to change. But in reality, consumers, especially those from the younger generation, are likely to be drawn to this type of service. With people turning to the Web for shopping, banking and paying bills, there's no reason to believe that this type of service won't at least be considered by consumers as an alternative to running around town seeking car repair quotes.

In order for IANAuto to be successful, it has to continue to sign up member shops. Right now 60 shops are signed up in the Chicago area, with a national rollout coming soon.

IANAuto says its high-level Internet exposure attracts consumers, which in turn, are funneled to member shops in a particular locale (the benefit previously mentioned). Pay the monthly fee and you get to bid on consumers' requests. It doesn't replace your other marketing efforts or word-of-mouth advertising, but it could increase more consumer requests.

I've probably raised more questions than I have answered, but the point is that you should investigate IAN Auto, as well as a few other similar businesses. They're blazing a new electronic trail that you soon may be traveling.

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