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Five minutes with… James Tew, chief executive, iVendi

James Tew iVendi

Can you give us an idea of your current size and scale?

We have four million unique consumers in any given month, and we process more than 100 billion quotations a month.

As there are only eight million or so vehicles purchased a year, the numbers suggest that many people who are looking to buy cars take a great deal of time before making their purchase.

The level of engagement we have acquired with consumers looking to buy cars, or to take on finance, is extremely useful for manufacturers, dealers, motor finance companies, and other suppliers to the industry.


How has your e-commerce platform for dealers been received?

It has been very well received, and we are constantly upgrading it. However, online retailing is exceptionally complex, and a lot of manufacturers have models that I don’t think are working, and so they’re not selling enough units.

We are talking to manufacturers and dealer groups about a model we call Generation 11 – we are in Generation 1 at the moment.

One factor influencing online sales is the disparity between recommended retail price and actual price. Manufacturers put cars into showrooms, but you may have discounts of up to 25% or 30%, with various bonuses and incentives, and you also have the trade-in factor.


Has your new support and client services department had the expected impact?

Yes, it has been really appreciated by dealers. We constantly monitor their systems, and if issues crop up, an alert is sent immediately to the client.

If, for instance, there were errors on a finance application, the team would call the dealer and help them through any technical issues.

Sometimes, the dealer will have the customer with them when the system flags an issue, and we’re are able to assist them in virtually real time.

We get fantastic responses from dealers to this service, and it’s not about the money. We are providing account managers, and they are paying maybe £50 a month.


In 2016, iVendi described the quality of applications from consumers as “good and improving”. Then, 39% of applicants were approved by prime lenders, against the industry average for showroom visitors of around 50% from a dealer’s principal lender.

You will still find that highest quality is when a customer walks into a dealership, and the lowest is when it’s online, but the overall figures don’t vary much.

Saying that, we’re talking to one manufacturer about their acceptance rate for new car finance. It’s running at 98%, and yet they were looking for ways we could help them reach 100%.

When we’re talking to people in the used car market – where acceptance levels are usually lower and consumers are more likely to apply online – we see approval rates of between 20% and 30%, but that varies between brands, age of the vehicle, and types of vehicle.

You get a higher approval rate on more expensive vehicles because of demographic issues, and it’s also interesting that when dealers have some form of engagement with the consumer – which doesn’t have to be in person, it could be on the phone or via email – then the online approval rate shoots up to 54%.


Are you seeing more applications for premium or non-premium brands?

There’s still an element of uncertainty about buying new cars, as we can see from the monthly sales figures, making it crucial to obtain clarity and insights about consumers.

At the moment, we are discussing ways to identify different conversion rates for online sales, based on the vehicle’s value. In essence, we want to discover if consumers are able to spot a good price, and then to see if the conversion rate is greater for those vehicles.

For instance, if a vehicle is out there at (say) 100% CAP retail, would there be a higher conversion rate than if the same vehicle were priced at 105% CAP retail? Can consumers spot that difference, and if so, how should that influence pricing decisions by dealers?


Is the percentage of inquiries from mobile devices continuing to rise?

I think we’re getting to a saturation point now, with about 75% on mobile devices. We saw the demise of the desktop, and now we’re seeing a fall-off from tablets too. Ian Halstead


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