Middle Tennessee residents may have noticed a unique new structure while commuting on Interstate 65: a five-story glass tower filled with used cars.
The building, a fully-automated vending machine for cars, is owned by online auto retailer Carvana and is the first of its kind in the country, although the fast-growing Arizona-based company expects to bring the concept to many more markets.
Tennessean photojournalist Shelley Mays and I experienced the vending machine firsthand Wednesday during a tour of the facility with Carvana’s co-founders, Ernie Garcia and Ryan Keeton.
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What I learned: Carvana is working hard and fast to disrupt the used car industry.
From its user-friendly website that allows customers to buy a used car online in less than 20 minutes, to encouraging customers to share their experience on social media in order to slash marketing costs, Carvana wants the car-buying process to be fun, easy, less costly and transparent.
“I think the inspiration for Carvana — and I wish it were more complicated — but I think what it came down to was there are a lot of people that aren’t very happy with the current way of buying cars, and people are changing their behaviors pretty significantly in buying cars, ” Garcia said.
Carvana’s model allows customers to browse its selection of company-owned used cars online — there are 1, 700 accident-free vehicles in the system — with high-res photos and 360-degree virtual tours. People can zoom in on any imperfections on the car. Once a vehicle is selected, customers can get financing, trade in a vehicle, sign contracts and schedule the car for delivery or pickup. Then there’s a seven-day test drive period.
Similar to online eyewear retailer Warby Parker, which now operates some brick-and-mortar showrooms, Carvana learned that some customers want to see the vehicle in person and pick it up at a designated facility.