Carvana just opened up an automated Car Vending Machine in Nashville

From 3D printed supercars to self driving vehicles, the world of automobiles has always come with its share of eccentricities. But now Nashville, the city of country, blues and honky tonks, adds another entry to that list of oddities in the form of a “Car Vending Machine”.

This rather unique approach to the used-car sales game was conceived by Ernie Garcia, CEO of Carvana, one of the largest online motor sales companies in the world and listed by Forbes as the fifth most promising American company of 2015.

The one-of-a-kind glass facility opened up last Thursday (Nov 12) in Nashville, Tennessee and is able to hold up to 20 cars. CEO Garcia views this as his attempt to move as far away from the standard recipe of motor sales as possible.

“The lack of differentiation locked everyone into the exact same cost structure that forced them to attract customers with a low-priced car, and then put them back in a room and try and sell them thousands of dollars of things they don’t really need, in order to make up for their undifferentiated cost structure,” Garcia said in an interview with Popular Science.

If you decide to buy a car from Carvana’s website you either have the choice of getting it delivered straight to your doorstep or picking it up from the dealership. This is where Garcia got the idea for the car vending machine.

He noticed that most customers opted for the pick-up option and that there was an opportunity do to do something different.

“We knew that if [customers] chose to pick up the car we would save some money, and so we could invest that money in giving them a really, really great experience,”

If you decide to pick up the car yourself (and I mean, who wouldn’t want to see this spectacle in action) then Carvana sends the vehicle in question to their futuristic five-storey tower from one of their distribution centres in Atlanta or Dallas.

Once you arrive at the facility you will enter your details on a tablet screen and receive a three inch commemorative coin. It is a vending machine, after all.

“The experience itself is exactly a vending machine experience,” says Garcia. “The customer even gets a customized, oversized coin that they drop into a slot.”

You then take this coin and slot it into the colossal contraption and stand back as the automated magic starts happening. Platforms start moving and gears start shifting and, before you know it, you’re sitting in the latest addition to your transportation family.

After the car has been lowered into your possession, Carvana provides you with a seven-day test period in which you can scope if your new vehicle is the fit you’ve been looking for. If not, Carvana will take it back, no questions asked.

“We even proactively call them on the sixth day and remind them that their return policy is expiring to ensure that they’re happy with the car,” Garcia explains. It is a process which he calls “test-to-own” and firmly believes is “way more useful than four right turns around a dealership.”

At this point in time, the Nashville facility is the only car vending machine in operation within the US but, with more than US$300 million in funding, Carvana plans to expand this new endeavour to many more cities in the near future.

Admittedly, Carvana is not the only company in the world that boasts such an unusual machine.

Autostadt, Volkwagen’s massive car theme park in Germany, sports two twenty-storey towers that work on the same principal. But it is used as more of a delivery system between the next door factory and storage towers. Another company in China, Kandi Technologies , rent out small electric cars for $3 an hour that also get dispensed from a vending machine-like facility.

None of them pull it off with the style and swagger of Carvana though. The experience they provide is not something you will see anywhere else in the world at present.

“I think it’s going to be an incredible customer experience,” says Garcia. “And I think if we’ve got the car that they’re looking for, and we’re selling it for $1500 to $2000 less, and we offer a purchase that takes twenty minutes, and then you get to go to a vending machine and watch your car moonwalk to you? I think people are going to respond to that.”

Wiehahn Diederichs


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