Paul Simon rode up the pop charts in the mid-’70s with “Kodachrome,” a song that extolled the virtues of Kodak camera film. Buy a roll, take some pictures, get it developed at the local photo shop, and return a week later to be disappointed.

See, most the pictures, you’d discover, were either out of focus, had people with eyes shut, or the lens cap was inadvertently left on. The manufacturer didn’t care. You paid for the film, the developing chemicals and the paper on which the photo was printed.

I bring this up because there’s no better example of the need to innovate than the story of Kodak, which, around 1989, decided against bringing the first digital camera to market for fear it would cannibalize its highly successful photography business. Well, by the time Kodak realized its mistake, the company was filing for bankruptcy.

Kodak did recover, altered its business, and is now fully engaged in the digital camera business. And, yes, it’s still printing photos. Well, dealers are at the same crossroads as Kodak’s management team was at nearly three decades ago. And if they continue using Sharpies and four-squares, they are likely headed toward a similar fate as Kodak — if they’re lucky.

See, our industry has been evolving toward this edealership concept. Problem is, the push seems to be focused solely on digitizing sales and F&I processes. But there’s a lot more to it than simply allowing people to complete a deal online. There’s econtracting, emarketing, and so on and so forth. The lack of a true definition of what edealership means is probably why a Google search of the term returns a Canadian company that uses it to market a fuel system.

So henceforth, I am defining and promoting an edealership concept to consolidate the various eprocesses dealers use in sales and F&I. I’m talking about a dealer who has figured out ways to convert pulp to ions.

Moving to an edealership concept provides many benefits to a dealer. Some are financial, some esoteric. For example, converting handwritten documents to digital documents can potentially be a cost and environment savings. Think about how much you’ll save not paying to store seven years’ worth of deal files or five years of dead deal files.

Factor in the wasted employee time to file and store bankers boxes of deals, or the time spent rummaging through the old boxes to respond to a complaint from the Dark Side. I bet the savings from eliminating Sharpies alone would be worth the effort.

But as usual, with gain comes pain, as converting to a paperless edealership has its risks. Primary among them is accepting and safeguarding consumers’ nonpublic personal information (NPI). Identity theft continues to be the fastest growing crime in the United States, and dealerships are particularly scrumptious targets to identity thieves.

Add the potential dollar amount of such crimes to the ability to digitally apply for and consummate an out-of-area delivery without ever stepping foot in the dealership and you have exacerbated the risk.

Another potential roadblock to completely digitize all the documents generated from your sales and F&I processes are archaic state laws and their requirement to retain wet-ink signatures on certain documents. The growing list of potential risks also include:

  • How to handle and manage social media
  • Credit app aggregation systems
  • Dealer websites, including uploading pictures and accepting credit apps
  • Electronic signatures
  • BDC calls and texting
  • Lead generators
  • Tablets to deliver sales and F&I proposals
  • Accessing dealership systems by smartphone
  • Bundled forms printing replacing a stack of multi-ply forms
  • Managing vendors’ belief that they have a compliant solution
  • Training 

As I embark on this noble effort to define the edealership, I will focus on the compliance component of the various processes that support it. Your thoughts and debate are welcome.

By the way, did you know a tune titled “#Selfie” rose up the dance charts this decade? If you’re not an electronic dance music fan, the song portrays the current culture of taking a self-portrait with a smartphone, looking at it and deciding whether to delete or Instagram the results. As the saying goes, innovation is never a single event.

Gil Van Over is the executive director of Automotive Compliance Education (ACE) and the founder and president of gvo3 & Associates. Email him at [email protected].

About the author
Gil Van Over

Gil Van Over


Gil Van Over is the executive director of Automotive Compliance Education (ACE), the founder and president of gvo3 & Associates, and author of “Automotive Compliance in a Digital World.” Email him at [email protected].

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