Researching a car online before purchase is nothing new. It has become an integral part of the new and used car sales machine over the past decade, but the reality of that process is improving daily, as buyer expectations rise and technology advances.
Once the research phase has been conducted on websites like CarAdvice, the next process is to buy your chosen car. Buying new, most people would simply walk into a dealership and close that loop, but people looking for near-new or used cars are likely to find themselves on a classified website.
Enthusiasts are all too familiar with these sites, and we’ve all spent hours browsing cars we either don’t need or can’t afford. But those seriously in the market have no doubt been frustrated by outdated website functionality, or the inability of dealers to take basic photos showcasing a car’s features and faults in the best possible way.
This often leads to dealer emails which, in the majority of cases, see the dealers paying for a lead, and hopeful buyers asking questions that could be answered by good captions and images.
Then comes the most annoying part of the process: haggling. Some people don’t bother, stumping the asking price to avoid the back-and-forth negotiation with the dealer or seller. Others mightn’t even inquire if they feel the price is too high, while an ever-shrinking group (like this author) gets a thrill from the negotiation process.
All told, this model is starting to show its age and, as a process, is hardly something many would willingly go through. As we found out recently, there’s a new way of doing this – at least for near new, high-quality used cars – taking off in Australia.
There are now numerous businesses set up to deal with this exact problem, buying near-new cars without having to worry about engaging with dealers or haggling. From HelloCars, CarZoos and BuyMyCar to the new PicklesGo, a system managed by long-time operating and Australian-owned Pickles. It’s an entirely online system, backed by some of the best digital assets provided for used cars in Australia.
We recently went to the 72,000sqm Pickles auction site in Brisbane to check out the secret weapon in the company’s arsenal: a state of the art, American-made and designed ‘photodome’, enabling an amazing level of detail photography to transform the idea of ‘checking a car out’ in the digital age.
The photodome, in operation since mid-2017, produces a series of 36 super-high-quality photos from multiple static cameras in less than five minutes.
Once a vehicle is driven in, the dome automatically closes its door and rotates once for full imagery with the car’s doors shut. With that set done, it opens the door so staff can open the vehicle’s doors, bonnet and boot – at which point it’ll rotate once more. It provides up to four-times zoom with incredible levels of detail.
The dome in Brisbane can churn through around 100 cars per day, creating imagery unmatched by other retailers operating in Australia. Once it goes through the system, the vehicles are listed on the Pickles website almost immediately, thanks to a high level of automation.
We put my Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG through the photodome and had the vehicle listed online with the full photo set in less than four hours, for a cheeky $2,490,000 – see the pictures and video.
Had we not seen the process in person, we would’ve been sceptical about the photos being real, because they look ‘photoshopped’. Turns out, they’re just super clear, to the point where you can read the name of the engineer who assembled the engine.
The company says the technology is meant to provide a transparent system, allowing buyers to know exactly what they’re purchasing. No part of the car is hidden, as you can probably tell.
Like some other services, prices of all PicklesGo vehicles are non-negotiable. The company says it looks at classified sites and used-car value providers like GlassGuide and Redbook to provide a competitive price based on the wholesale market.
The photodome also works on the auction business for which the company is best known. Two live events – online and in person – are held each week in Brisbane alone, with around 40 per cent auctions cleared via online bidders.
Speaking to CarAdvice, general manager of Pickles vehicles, Brendon Green, said the idea for PicklesGo and the photodome was the company’s way of investing in the future and staying ahead of the curve.
Like its competitors, the majority of the cars sold through fixed priced sales are high-quality, near-new vehicles from the government or private fleets. In some cases, they come from the manufacturers themselves.
They’re offered with a three-month, 5000km warranty as required by law. Green admits auction prices may be slightly lower, but says the convenience of a fixed-price system delivers a level of value that is hard to match.
Whilst the system itself is not exactly unique and is certainly matched in functionality and purposes by other offerings on the market, the photodome adds a rich digital layer on top that is lacking even for new cars.
PicklesGo is nothing revolutionary, however, it is a clear indication of where buyers of near-new cars are going, wanting the peace of mind and the full transparency that it offers. It’s a sign of things to come and a changing landscape of how high-quality used cars will trade hands.
For now, the photodome is only available in Brisbane, but by the end of 2018 other cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth will also have one.