Innovation of the Week: Shift drives its online used-car marketplace to San Diego | Crain's

Innovation of the Week: Shift drives its online used-car marketplace to San Diego

The long wait times, the disrespectful salespeople, the lingering suspicion that you’re being ripped off—these are just a few of the things that people hate about used car dealerships. So, it’s no wonder that 24 percent of people said they would rather get a root canal than negotiate with a car salesman, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for the Beepi Consumer Automotive Index.

The used car market is ripe for a better solution, and startup Shift Technologies Inc. believes it has one, with an online marketplace that’s billed as a simpler, less stressful and more straightforward way to buy a second-hand car. 

Having established its business in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Los Angeles region, Shift now is bringing its service to San Diego. The company this week listed its first car in the San Diego area. Shift said the move will allow consumers in the region to take advantage of its faster and more efficient approach to car buying and selling.

The key allure of Shift is that it eliminates the trip to the dealership—or anywhere else for that matter. The service instead allows prospective buyers to choose cars from its online selection and then sends concierges to the consumers’ homes or workplaces to conduct free on-demand test drives and on-site appraisals.

“In a traditional dealership, you spend between four and six hours buying a car, from the time you walk in, to being done. So, you spend the entire day on that process,” said Shift CEO George Arison in a phone interview. “With Shift, you can search online and find the car you want, do a test drive and close the transaction all in less than 45 minutes.”

Another advantage Shift cites over traditional dealers is the extensive information it provides in advance regarding car history, inspection results and pricing.

“With traditional dealers, one of the biggest things that people complain about is transparency,” Arison said. “If you go to our site and see any vehicle display page that we have, you’ll see how much information we provide customers. We have an inspection report right there where we say in detail what the condition of the car is. There’s also an AutoCheck vehicle history there. We show our price and a price from a third-party source that tells [the customer] where [our] price is compared to the market rate.”

Beyond the convenience factor, Shift said it offers lower prices while also earning sellers thousands of dollars more than they would have going through a traditional dealer. Arison attributed the company’s superior pricing and returns to its greater efficiency. The company’s service eschews expensive dealership facilities while attaining higher conversion rates than achieved by traditional used car sellers, allowing it to achieve superior cost effectiveness.

Shift said its cars pass a rigorous inspection and come with a 5-day money-back guarantee. The company also provides financing on most vehicles.

March 22, 2017 - 8:50pm