Automotive, Industry Ideas, Insights

What Apple cars tell us about the future of the dealership

By Andrew Tai - May 20, 2021

Apple cars aren’t happening… yet.

It turns out that Hyundai hadn’t been planning to manufacture self-driving cars for Apple, and it appears that 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.

The automotive industry has made great strides in the past year.

Since the start of COVID lockdowns in March 2020, dealerships across North America did an incredible job of updating their practices to keep operating safely and efficiently.

This is just the beginning, though. Our industry is built on tradition and instinct, and that worked for a long time. Dealers were hesitant to adopt new, unproven technologies that disrupted their longstanding routines. So much has changed in the past year.

Over a year into our digital retailing experiment, and it’s clear to everyone that these online tools are the way forward – 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.

Apple knows what it's doing.

The thing is, Apple (and the other tech giants to follow) are digital natives. They understand how to create the perfect shopping environment for a consumer base who shops primarily online. When they hit the market – and they will – their new way of doing business will be compared directly to traditional car dealerships.

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.

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.

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.

Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at

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