Guillermo Prieto, Luis Vega, Fernando Enciso, Anasofía Sánchez and Rodrigo Hütt (MAS)

If you can’t beat them, join them. That seems to be the motto pushing companies in the automotive industry into the digital era that is changing the way customers choose to buy a vehicle or not, according to panelists at the Mexico Automotive Summit at the Mexico City Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel on Wednesday.

Mexico City is the fifth-largest city in the world with 8.8 million people making 35 million trips daily, whether in private vehicles or public transport. Against this backdrop, banks, industry associations and even digital platforms are rethinking the way they sell to customers driven by the purchase experience and a quick response.

One of the platforms embracing the trend is Waze, which recently launched a new app called Waze Carpool, a tool with the goal of making rides more organized by searching for people going in the same direction as the user who requests the trip. The company expects a 40 percent reduction in travel times during peak hours, said Director General of Waze in Mexico Anasofía Sánchez during the panel discussion Mobility and Sales in the Digital Era. She quickly pointed out, however, that such efforts alone will not make the difference. “We have seen that this is not enough. The change has to come from all the people in the city. Waze’s ambition is to end traffic congestion altogether, as a community,” said Sánchez. 

A platform that has seen first-hand the change in customer preferences is Mercado Libre, which is a growing platform for people hunting for both pre-owned and new vehicles. In this process, the Head of Classifieds at the company, Rodrigo Hütt, said the company has identified three stages: research, consideration, and closure. And the transition is clear. Mercado Libre has found that nine out of 10 people begin their vehicle search on the internet, with 80 percent of them doing it from a smartphone.

This environment has also forced vehicle distributors to change to remain relevant. Director Mexico of Grupo Surman Fernando Enciso believes the answer is in customer experience.  “With a new customer profile, we must innovate, get into new technologies, even use platforms such as Mercado Libre,” he said.

Enciso pointed out that the reasons people buy a vehicle today are clearly evident, whether it is for luxury, comfort, status or necessity. “The acquisition process involves an emotional component. As a community, we enjoy socializing and vehicles are part of our personality. We are trying to understand, process and cultivate our people in this new system,” he said.

But for most of people, buying a vehicle would not be possible without financing. Business Development Director of Consumer Financing at BBVA Luis Vega said that the Spanish bank is already working with online startup Kavak to accompany the client in the vehicle purchasing process until the vehicle is delivered. “Customers place more value on how fast they can get their car than the price. At the moment, when a client requests a loan through BBVA’s website, they get an answer in less than 18 minutes. And it is a final response,” said Vega. 

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