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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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Car Sales Agents Are Non-Human

CarLabs.ai, headquartered in Calabasas, has expanded its artificial intelligence-powered conversation system to serve auto dealers as well as manufacturers with its new Dealer Direct platform.The AI-powered platform can engage with customers via live online chat on a manufacturer’s or dealer’s website — as well as text, email, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger — and answer questions about inventory, car features and finance options. When used on a website, customers know they’re speaking with AI software, but used through other channels, customers believe they are chatting with a human representative.

“There are two reasons people invest in our product. One is to be able to engage more customers and sell more products — and we see pretty good increases there. The other is a human capital savings, where one AI assistant can do the work of 10 people,” said John Ruble, chief revenue officer at CarLabs. “And it’s more efficient because (the AI) does a better job. So it’s really two parts. It’s increasing sales and customer retention, but also doing it without having to add additional employees.”A CarLabs report from last year indicated that the customers using its service saw brand engagement on Facebook Messenger increased by 50 times, call center volume reduced by half and 21 percent of users who engaged with the AI were driven to high-value actions such as getting a quote or viewing inventory.

In the future, Ruble said, the machine-powered assistant technology will likely be far more common as a result of these benefits. He added that CarLabs sees a future in expanding to other industries, such as insurance, finance and other tech companies with consumer-facing service representatives.

Within four years of its launch in 2015, CarLabs acquired clients such as American Honda Motor Co., Kia Motors America and Hyundai Motor America. With this latest expansion, the company seeks to extend its market to nearly 18,000 franchised car dealers in the U.S.“Our initial start was really at the OEM level working with BMW, Kia, Hyundai and Honda to sit on the actual OEM website to help car shoppers and owners that had questions about their vehicles or questions about buying a vehicle,” Ruble explained. “We saw the need once those leads are created, basically from a chat, there was this need to continue to follow up with that customer in the same manner, but through other channels. So that’s why we went and added the dealer direct market.”In addition to the original equipment manufacturers and dealerships, CarLabs also partners with captive finance groups such as Hyundai Capital America and BMW Financial Services to create finance assistants.

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering retail, hospitality and philanthropy for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. In addition to her current beat, she is particularly interested in criminal justice topics, health and science stories and investigative journalism. She received her AA in Humanities from Moorpark College in 2016, her BA in Communication from Cal Lutheran University in 2019 and followed it up with a MA in Specialized Journalism from USC in the summer of 2020. Through her work, Katherine aspires to help strengthen the fragile trust between members of the media and the public.
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