Technology

Would you buy your next car at Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart is jumping into car sales, with the help of a South Florida auto giant and a tech startup.

The world’s largest retailer has partnered with dealership groups, including Fort Lauderdale’s AutoNation, the nation’s largest new-vehicle retailer, and CarSaver, an online auto retail startup based in Miami, to launch the program at about 25 Wal-Mart Supercenters in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Oklahoma City. At launch, 16 AutoNation stores in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas will participate, AutoNation Chief Marketing Officer Marc Cannon told Automotive News. AutoNation has no stores in Oklahoma City.

The pilot program is Wal-Mart’s foray into auto sales, and will be expanded if it is successful.

Starting April 1, shoppers in those four cities can choose, finance and insure a new, used or certified pre-owned car at “CarSaver Center” touch-screen kiosks or through Carsaver.com’s website, and staff will be on hand to explain the car-buying program to Wal-Mart customers, Automotive News said. The centers will be set up inside Wal-Mart stores. Detroit-based Ally Financial is the program’s preferred lender.

CarSaver then will connect customers with a local, certified dealer and schedule an appointment to visit the dealership. If a sale is made, the dealership pays CarSaver a fee of $350 in most states, the publication said. CarSaver, Wal-Mart, auto lenders and dealerships conducted a pilot test of the program in Stuart last spring and nearly 80 percent of the appointments scheduled through the program led to a sale and customers saved more than $3,000 off the sticker price on average through the transparent system, said Sean Wolfington, CarSaver’s CEO.

Wolfington, a dealership owner and a tech entrepreneur, and Chad Collier, a former auto dealer, founded CarSaver in Miami in 2012. More than 20 years ago, Wolfington managed the Costco auto-buying program for a dealership where he worked so he “became convinced that this was the right way to sell cars — with a fair, transparent price, presented by brands the customer trusts most,” he told Automotive News. Prior to CarSaver, Wolfington, who is also an Endeavor Miami board member, was involved in building other car sales technology platforms.

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