Shift Makes Buying a Car as Easy as Ordering a Pizza

Shift makes buy­ing a car as easy as order­ing a pizza—But extra top­pings won’t be $2.50.

by Rober­to Bald­win @Strngwys
Buy­ing a car is a pain.

Espe­cial­ly if you’re look­ing to save some cash by pur­chas­ing some­thing used. You end up scour­ing tons of ran­dom Craigslist list­ings and dread­ing the moment a used car deal­er sits you down with the hyper-aggres­sive loan offi­cer. For­tu­nate­ly, there’s a new way to buy a vehi­cle that doesn’t even involve you leav­ing the house.

Based out of San Fran­cis­co, Shift will deliv­er a car to the home of a poten­tial buy­er for them to test-dri­ve. If you sched­ule one of these dri­ves and decide that this is your new whip, you can buy it right then and there using the deliv­ery person’s iPad. No dri­ving across town, the coun­ty, or the state to roll around in a vehi­cle and more impor­tant­ly no pushy sales or financ­ing peo­ple.

Launched in 2013, Shift joined a grow­ing num­ber of auto­mo­tive star­tups hop­ing to change the sta­tus quo. In the car-sell­ing mar­ket, it’s joined by Car­vana, which also deliv­ers a car to own­ers but requires you opt to buy it first. Shift’s biggest com­peti­tor was the defunct Beepi, which did the same thing as Shift, but shut­tered and was absorbed by anoth­er auto­mo­tive start­up, Fair, at the end of 2016. Fair offers alter­na­tive pay­ment loan and lease pay­ment plans.

So while it’s cur­rent­ly the only play­er that’ll come to your home or office to let you test dri­ve a car, it’s cer­tain­ly not going to be the last. There’s no real rea­son why an automak­er couldn’t nudge its deal­ers to use its own ver­sion of an app for sched­uled off-site test-dri­ves. But that might be ok with Shift.

Co-founder and CEO George Ari­son told Engad­get that in the future, there’s a poten­tial for some­one with an inven­to­ry of cars in a mar­ket the com­pa­ny wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly enter to be a super-sell­er on Shift using the startup’s plat­form. Sort of like the super-sell­ers on eBay that use the auc­tion site to sell their goods with­out hav­ing to launch their own sites or deal with e-com­merce issues.

If you’re a used car deal­er in a place like Wichi­ta, Kansas, where Shift might not open its own office, the idea of being the one place in town that makes it super easy for poten­tial cus­tomers to buy a car could be too good to pass up.

With mil­len­ni­als mak­ing up 50 per­cent of Shift’s cus­tomer base, it should be on the radar of any deal­er or automak­er look­ing to appeal to a demo­graph­ic that’s become accus­tomed to near­ly every­thing being deliv­ered to their home. It’s no won­der that BMW’s i Ven­ture is an investor in the com­pa­ny. The com­pa­ny is cur­rent­ly mak­ing a prof­it on vehi­cles it sells in Los Ange­les and San Fran­cis­co. It is work­ing on mak­ing its San Diego loca­tion prof­itable.

Ari­son isn’t con­tent with just facil­i­tat­ing the sales of cars. He sees Shift evolv­ing to a concierge ser­vice that tells dri­vers that their cars need new tires, an oil change or even a wash. The sys­tem would sched­ule some­one to pick up their car, have the main­te­nance work done and return it.

Like most things that involve cars and is out­side the tra­di­tion­al mod­el, there are reg­u­la­tions. Each state has dif­fer­ent rules on how com­pa­nies sell cars. So Shift and oth­er star­tups will have to nav­i­gate a patch­work of laws. Texas, for exam­ple, is dif­fi­cult to break into because the state is tra­di­tion­al deal­er friend­ly. States like Texas have fran­chise laws that are meant to keep automak­ers from edg­ing deal­ers out of the mar­ket by sell­ing direct­ly to con­sumers the way Tes­la does. The by-prod­uct of those laws is that com­pa­nies like Shift also have dif­fi­cul­ty enter­ing those mar­kets.

Shift cur­rent­ly only oper­ates in Cal­i­for­nia. It shut­tered its East Coast sales offices to focus on one mar­ket with hopes of expand­ing to oth­er states while nav­i­gat­ing the legal sys­tems of those loca­tions. But if deal­ers start using the same type of sys­tem or use Shift’s plat­form, it’s like­ly because your leg­is­la­tors have had a change of heart about how a car can be sold in their dis­trict.

So like food, cloth­ing, humans who’ll do your chores and even weed, your next vehi­cle might be deliv­ered to your house and pur­chased from an iPad while you take a 30-minute break from watch­ing Stranger Things. And frankly, that’s bet­ter than being trapped in a small room at a deal­er­ship while a hyper sales­per­son uses illog­i­cal math you trick you into buy­ing some­thing you can’t real­ly afford. The last thing you need is stress while drop­ping a huge wad of cash on a car.



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