Upstart Offers Tools to Promote ‘Omnichannel Car Buying’

car buying

Upstart is updating its auto retail platform to help dealers offer a simpler buying experience.

The artificial intelligence (AI) lending marketplace announced the new applications in a Thursday (Jan. 19) news release. It’s part of a larger digital evolution for the car-buying experience as consumers struggle to find affordable automobiles.

“Upstart Auto Retail combines online and in-store digital retail capabilities with financing and manager tools to help dealerships create an omnichannel car-buying experience,” the company said in the release.

During the second quarter of the year, Upstart will introduce a digital finance tool, allowing for “frictionless signing and contracting,” without a new sales process required for dealers.

The company is also due to launch an online sales tool that lets consumers complete their car purchases entirely online. Upstart says both tools can be customized to fit with dealerships’ workflows and software.

“Engaging customers with a seamless experience — whether shopping from the comfort of their homes or in-store — is the key to winning in the next generation of auto retail,” Jeremy Nowling, sales and digital retailing director at Rohrman Auto Group, said in the release.

Upstart’s announcement came the same day the digital engagement firm Impel revealed it had raised $104 million to enhance its software for automotive manufacturers, dealers and third-party marketplaces.

Research by PYMNTS has shown that car purchases are evolving as part of a wider digital transformation, with consumer demand transforming the auto-buying process and dealers in a race to stay ahead of the curve.

While dealers have historically enjoyed the in-person advantages of building rapport and customer relationships in the showroom, these benefits have been steadily eroding, the PYMNTS/Onbe collaboration “The Key to Satisfied Car Buyers is Digital Disbursements” found.

Car buyers, meanwhile, are facing pressures of their own, as the share of U.S. consumers paying at least $1,000 a month for a vehicle hit a record high of 16% in the fourth quarter of 2022. That’s up from 10.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 6.7% in the last quarter of 2020, according to car shopping guide Edmunds.

Edmunds said earlier this month that consumers were protected from questionable financing decisions by lower interest rates and high trade-in values early in the pandemic.

“But as we shifted toward an environment with diminished used car values and rising interest rates over the past few months, consumers have become less insulated from those riskier loan decisions, and we are only seeing the tip of the negative equity iceberg,” Edmunds Director of Insights Ivan Drury said at the time.