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Private Vehicle Acquisition Strategies With Tom Gregg

  • January 31, 2023
16 min read
Private Vehicle Acquisition Strategies With Tom Gregg

Ilana Shabtay, Fullpath
VP of Marketing

Tom Gregg, Vehicle Acquisition Network (VAN)
Founder and CEO

Tom Gregg is the Founder and CEO of Vehicle Acquisition Network (VAN), a proprietary software that helps dealers acquire private party vehicles by connecting them directly to private sellers. Tom’s automotive experience began as a porter and evolved through several manager and director roles at dealerships in the Midwest. His entrepreneurial spirit soon outgrew his dealership journey and he began focusing on software development for the automotive industry. Tom brings confidence and mentorship to his team and always strives for the perfect balance of team culture, smart software development, and constant learning.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Tom Gregg’s entry into the automotive space
  • How Vehicle Acquisition Network helps dealers acquire cars
  • Tom talks about his company’s partnership with vAuto
  • How VAN filters private car listings and how its Chrome extension enhances the user experience
  • Tom’s predictions for the automotive space in 2023

In this episode…

As the automotive space evolves, dealerships are seeking easy ways to acquire inventory. Private-party vehicles are an affordable option for dealers to source new cars. So what do you need to know about this acquisition strategy?

Private vehicle acquisitions provide great opportunities for dealers to find high-value cars with large profit margins and fast returns. They are also a great way for dealers to connect with potential customers. According to Tom Gregg, buying cars directly from car owners increases a dealer’s competitive advantage and boosts brand loyalty.

In this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay interviews Tom Gregg, the Founder and CEO of Vehicle Acquisition Network, about private vehicle acquisition strategies. They also discuss VAN’s partnership with vAuto and Tom’s predictions for the automotive space in 2023.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

AutoLeadStar’s innovative technology helps dealerships automate ads, connect with customers, and discover ROI and performance metrics.

Visit their website at to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here, host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today’s guest, this episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar is automotive’s first and leading CDXP customer data and experience platform. Top dealers invest in CDXPs to unify dealership data sources automatically create one-to-one customized journeys and execute omni channel shopping experiences. Welcome. Today we have Tom Gregg on the show. Tom, how are you?

Tom Gregg 0:48

I’m good. How you doing?

Ilana Shabtay 0:50

I’m doing well. Thanks for joining us bright and early. Awesome. Well, Tom is the founder and CEO of the Vehicle Acquisition Network based in Chicago, Illinois, and a true student of the industry. Tom’s automotive experience became as began as a porter and evolves through several manager and director roles at dealerships in the Midwest. His entrepreneurial spirit soon outgrew his dealership journey and he found himself focused on software development for the industry. A strong believer in mindfulness and wellness, Tom is an accomplished triathlete and has competed at the highest level in the Ironman Triathlon, which is super impressive. He brings a lot of confidence and mentorship to his team. He always strives for a perfect balance of team culture, smart software development, and constant learning. I think that makes for great company culture. So thank you for bringing that to the show today.

Tom Gregg 1:43

Thanks, John.

Ilana Shabtay 1:45

So let’s start with how you got into automotive I know, you have a lot of retail experience, which is great, you’re able to kind of see what it’s like to work at the dealership. What are some of the challenges? How did you even get into the retail side?

Tom Gregg 1:57

I started as a porter at 16. So I started working when I was in high school, learning more about business. And when I turned 18, I started selling cars. And so I was selling cars and going to college part-time. So I really found a passion for the industry. I really enjoyed that was cars, but the people side of things. And also the business aspect. As you learn new skills, you can apply them and really develop just different aspects of yourself.

Ilana Shabtay 2:28

Yeah, 100%. And I’ve, I’ve only been on the vendor or the software side. And I always wish I can sort of just like, leave it for a year, try selling cars come back because I feel like you get such a good perspective. First of all, I just think that hustle is good for anyone to go through. But you get a really nice perspective on what dealers actually go through what it’s like to sell a car, what is it like to, you know, be with a customer from A to Z. And then you started, you know, you’ve started the vehicle acquisition network. And I know that that fills a lot of challenges for for dealers today. Can you tell us a little bit about like, what that solves for dealers?

Tom Gregg 3:07

Yeah. So dealers are constantly seeking ways to acquire inventory. That’s fast turning and a high margin. And so I was, I guess, a bit early in this struggle at the auction bit more ahead of what the other dealers were facing. And so I struggled with buying cars, being in the Chicago market, it’s highly competitive. And I worked at a Toyota store, outside of the city. And we really focused on Toyota Certified. So I was in a position where I was trying to acquire certifiable Toyotas at the auction and recondition those cars paying all the auction costs and transportation fees. And at the end of the day, there wasn’t a lot of profit that was often leftover on certifiable Toyotas. So I found myself in a position where I was looking at where can I source these cars that I can ultimately certify and then sell. And that led me to a path of buying cars from other dealers. But that was not fulfilling the needs that I had to outsell the new department. So I found myself buying cars from private sellers. And so what I found though, was that these cars that you can acquire directly from people in my market that were selling their cars are that I get cars that I could sell quickly. So fast turn, and I can also acquire cars that had a higher profit potential on that car as well. Because ultimately, when you make the offer on these cars, you’re only buying the cars that make sense for you. So the cars in the marketplace that are being sold by the owner, the more offers that you make is potentially the more vehicles that you will acquire at potentially higher margins. So the problem that we solve is helping dealers to buy cars that have higher profit potential and faster returns. Now is

Ilana Shabtay 4:53

there also an upside to the fact that they’re buying from private owners so that they can also potentially turn that into a customer for life? Was that not something that you necessarily thought of or it doesn’t always work out that way?

Tom Gregg 5:05

It’s a positive consequence. And so ultimately, the dealers that we work with the ones that have really good processes and great people, delight the sellers, even if they don’t buy that vehicle from them. So we don’t actually focus on just buying the car isn’t encouraging the dealers to make a great impression, even such that when you’re a seller advocate, so if somebody has a vehicle that you notice the photos aren’t fantastic, even giving them a suggestion, kind polite one, on how they improve their listing, you’re actually going to win more of those sellers over than the ones that you’ll lose by them selling their car on their own. So, yeah, our facts. Yeah. So if you really delight the consumer and give them a great experience, you’re going to leave a lot of people with a positive impression of the dealership brand, that ultimately may not have known about the dealership altogether.

Ilana Shabtay 6:00

Yeah, I think that’s awesome. It’s like a whole nother channel for brand marketing, which is really important, as we know, especially today, with brand loyalty going down. So I think that’s a great plus. And, as you said, a positive consequence. Now, I know you have two exciting things on the radar, I don’t know if you’re releasing it at nada, or if we could do a little pre-release here. But you mentioned that you have a new partnership with Biado. So I’d love to hear a little bit about that. And I know, dealers are going to be super excited about talking about that nada, for sure. So I would love to know what that would look like. And then specifically how that helps with the dealer workflow and simplifies it.

Tom Gregg 6:41

Yeah, name of V. Otto, it’s really the best in class inventory management system that’s on the market. They’ve been ahead of the game, since inception, essentially. So the Auto has tremendous tools that the dealers are able to benefit from. So they have their strategy, they have the stocking score, so a lot of power than the Auto has that dealers really love. And when you think about VAN, we’re the best in class, private-party solution on the marketplace, we have over 16 sources that we aggregate data from. So those sources instead of just a few of them, being Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, cars, Craigslist, any place that you would imagine a vehicle for sale by owner, we grab those listings, we append these listings, we clean them up, we try to remove dealers, we try to eliminate scam. So when you combine the best-in-class inventory solution with the best-in-class private party solution and put them together, what happens is you’re able to give the dealers access to the vehicles that they need, matching their stocking score, their strategy, among all the different sources that are available in the marketplace. So we’re very excited about the partnership yet because we’re going to be able to bring our listings in with the autos platform, and then help dealers to manage it opportunities for acquisition.

Ilana Shabtay 8:02

That’s really powerful. Now, I know you mentioned sort of in passing that you guys clean it

up and take out the spam and stuff. Is that automated AI-based? Or is it manual? Yeah. So

Tom Gregg 8:12

we do cleanse the data. So we analyze the listings, we look for keywords or phrases that are often sent out either being a dealer, so if a seller foes as a private seller, and they have listings that post comments that say they accept trade-ins or financing available, or even in Spanish for that matter, we classify those as dealers because it’s clear that the private seller is not going to often offer to finance, or cases accept trade-ins. So we cleanse the data for dealers, and we also analyze for signs of spam. So there are some people that will post listings that are not really interested in selling a vehicle, but they’re rather interested in gathering data from the shoppers. So we try to URLs when we can see them. And the last one would be big listings that have salvaged or even titles. So we try to analyze that data to detect things that are consistent with salvaged or lost and we eliminate those bad title vehicles as well.

Ilana Shabtay 9:20

Got it. Okay, cool. And then there’s one. I mean, that sounds amazing, especially when you have everything in one place, this partnership is going to be really powerful. But there’s one other really powerful thing that you guys are releasing, which is the Chrome extension. I personally use everything in my Chrome extension. So this is very exciting for me, even though I don’t run a dealership, but the fact that dealers will be able to be way more efficient and just pop open. An extension is crazy. So I’d love to hear a little bit about that. And also even what the process was like to think about the user experience of the extension.

Tom Gregg 9:54

Sure. So how it came about was we would have some dealers give feedback fact that the users, their managers, or rather their, agents that are buying cars from private sellers, would prefer to go directly to the source directly to correct us directly to Facebook, and then kind of navigate these native websites on their own, and then find those opportunities as they find them. So it made a lot of sense to us to build the Chrome extension that would accompany this user around all these websites, and then give them access to that information, as if they were in the van platform. So access to information would be running a CARFAX there’s a VIN number there, or an auto check for that matter, being able to do a click-to-call click the text, and perhaps see if there’s been some past engagement with that seller. So when you natively go to Facebook, you may not know that somebody else in the dealership has already engaged and connected. So if you have one agent that’s communicating and making an offer, and then you also have another person, the same store, doing the same thing, it can look very disorganized. So it makes a lot of sense to keep everything together in one place. And so if you have a Chrome extension, that is accompanying this user around, they can see all the past engagements, they have access to the tools for efficiency, and we even have the ability to do a plate to Vin. So if they can see the plate from the photos, they can process that in our platform and grab the VIN, which permits a CARFAX or an auto check. So we want to give all the tools that the dealers like, and the efficiencies of the ban, right on the Native website. And so this chrome extension permits that ability to do this.

Ilana Shabtay 11:39

Yeah, that sounds like a game-changer. Is that out already, or that’s coming out?

Tom Gregg 11:43

It’s in beta. So it is out for slug dealers, but we’re about to launch it nada.

Ilana Shabtay 11:47

That’s awesome. I mean, that’s a real game-changer. I find, you know, I have Chrome extensions for other things. But the less you have to open up and leave what you’re doing more focused work, the more efficient, the better the data, I love it. Now, before we wrap up here, I’d love to know what you think. Some of the like what do you predict first 2023 for automotive, whether that’s a challenge or an opportunity? I’d love to know like what you’re hearing what you’re thinking will be, you know, the next thing for us this year.

Tom Gregg 12:19

Yeah, I think all the news that I have listened to. And some of the experts that track the data and the trends, a lot of it’s pointing to be in a challenging year for 2023. So I see, based on some of the information that’s out there, that new vehicle availability will be higher than it was in past years. However, the higher interest rates will make it a challenge. I do think that manufacturers will offer more lease incentives that permit them to offer some more affordability. Because the average price of a vehicle right now a new vehicle, it’s almost $50,000, the housing dollars a month and a car payment. There are many people,

Ilana Shabtay 13:01

I recently saw that I mean, the average payment went from maybe 400 to seven something a month. In the past few months. It’s really outrageous.

Tom Gregg 13:13

It is so when you consider the affordability of many people $1,000 car payment is not affordable. And so I think manufacturers are going to be sensitive to this. And if they want to continue to increase the overall volume of sales, they need to find a way to make it more affordable. So I think leasing is a great way to do it because allows them to control the out, you know, the end game for that vehicle, whether they get that car back, hopefully, retain that customer into another lease. And I think leasing is a great way to do that. On the used car side. I do think it’ll be a challenging year for many dealers. I’ve heard a lot of talk over the past six to eight months about getting back to the basics from a lot of the industry trainers and experts. And so I really do think that the dealers are going to have to vendors as well, are going to have to get back to really the core, follow up a meet and greet and some of the fundamentals of selling.

Ilana Shabtay 14:12

Yeah, I totally agree. And actually the last podcast episode I did with Dave Warren from Dave Warren CDJR. He said that I think he had just recently gotten back from his 20 group meeting. And he said the first thing he did when he came back from the 20 group meeting was rounded up his troops and said, guys, this is done like the luxury that we lived in of not having to actually sell a car is over. And we have to remember, go back, as you said, go back to the basics, understand what it is to sell a car, build a relationship, build that customer relationship, the brand loyalty so that, you know, people will pick us over the competition when it comes to selling you know, buying the next vehicle. So I think a lot of people will agree. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens um, during my predictions now, and then hopefully November, December we’ll have a nice podcast to see look back and see who’s right. So thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Tom Gregg 15:09

Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Ilana Shabtay 15:11

Awesome. This is InsideAuto Podcast. For those listening please tune in you can find us on all your favorite podcast channels. Thanks again.

Outro 15:22

Thanks for listening to InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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