What Apple cars tell us about the future of the dealership

Apple cars aren’t happening… yet. Contrary to early reports, Hyundai wasn’t planning to manufacture self-driving cars for Apple, and Tesla is once again the only California tech giant with a major stake in the electric/autonomous car game.

One thing is clear, though: big tech is interested in our industry like never before, and that means we have work to do. Silicon Valley titans have captured the imagination and curiosity of consumers in every industry, and they know how to turn those sentiments into sales. We need to be ready.

Has the industry gone completely digital?

In response to the initial COVID lock-downs of 2020, dealerships across North America did an incredible job of updating their practices to keep operating safely and efficiently. We were particularly impressed with the ways some MotoCommerce users were able to thrive! You can see their results here.

This was a good start, but a return to normal has slowed the digital transition. Our industry is built on tradition and instinct, and that worked for a long time. Even after innovative dealerships proved the potential of digital retailing in sales, marketing, and even inventory acquisition, many are still reluctant to give in to this new way of doing business.

As a result, we’re halfway between the future and the past.

The truth everyone can see but us

It’s clear to everyone that automotive digital retailing tools are the way forward – some dealers have realized it, but so have outsiders like Apple. The world was watching, and they see the potential that a newly digitized automotive industry has to offer.

Just look at the mainstream news coverage. Digital retailing exploded from a niche automotive discussion point to key talking point worldwide. ABC News, Forbes, Bloomberg, and others can’t stop talking about how much consumers love digital retailing.

"This shift to digital retail is positive for dealers who embrace it," Haig told ABC News.

The threat Apple poses to the automotive industry

The thing is, Apple (and budding tech/car companies like Lucid and Rivian) are digital natives. They understand how to create the perfect purchase journey for a consumer base that already shops primarily online. When they hit the market – and they will – everyone will compare their purchase process to yours.

How can we prepare for digital challengers?

To thrive in the new automotive landscape, we need to start today. By implementing digital retailing tools now, dealerships can ensure that they speak the language of e-commerce fluently by the time big tech comes to play. When that happens, these tech companies won’t have the competitive edge they anticipate in the online shopping game.

Use the advantages you already have

What’s more, research highlighted in the J.D. Power 2020 COVID-19 Vehicle Owner Pulse webinar suggests that customers still expect a great in-store experience even when they start shopping online. As with everything in life, car shopping needs to be a happy medium; customers want the option to combine online and in-store elements of the sale into their ideal purchase process.

This is what the best omni-channel digital retailing platforms offer, and what you can bring to the table. Your secret weapon isn’t just a widget on your VDP, it’s your ability to bring decades of in-person sales expertise to the digital sales process. We have some awesome tips on working with your team to create the perfect digital purchase process over here!


Tesla was just the tip of the iceberg. More and more tech companies will try to join the automotive industry, and they’ll bring with them a newer, more digital way of doing business. This disruption can seem threatening, but traditional dealerships have the home-court advantage. If we can combine that legacy with the right omni-channel digital retailing tools, dealerships can expect to thrive even through complete industry upheaval.

Ready to sell more cars? See how your dealership can thrive online today.

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