Based in Toronto, Canada, Colin Richardson is a seasoned operational leader with extensive marketing and sales experience in the OEM and retail disciplines. After 26 years in the automotive business and holding senior roles with Porsche Cars North American, Porsche Cars Canada, Toyota/Lexus Canada, and AutoCanada, Colin joined Phyron in March 2022.
Hi Colin, that looks like a bold leap. Why does a car guy like you join a software company?
Not bold at all. The automotive business, both wholesale and retail, will change more in the next 5 years than in the previous 40. Those who do not recognize the generational industry pivot and execute a relevant, pragmatic strategy won’t survive. Phyron expertise is AI-enhancement, automation, and streamlining the creation and processing of top–quality video car ads. The current process tends to be an arduous, time-consuming, and costly procedure for dealer groups
The solution generates individually optimized, studio-quality video ads for every car in stock, and is easily scalable, so the bigger the dealer, the greater the savings. I simply couldn’t resist it, and neither could apparently the more than a thousand European dealers and several OEMs who are already customers. The growth potential is exponential.
Which are, in your view, the major challenges for North American dealers right now?
The most prominent challenge for retailers is the redefinition of the sales and service processes, as dictated by the consumer and long overdue. Authentic end-to-end omni-channel strategies and the ability to move between digital and traditional channels is of paramount importance.
An obvious trend is that major dealer networks, the progressive ones, actually prospered from the Covid and chip “crises”, grabbing the opportunity to acquire smaller dealerships and groups. Individual dealers and small dealer groups don’t have the ability to scale and compete with the majors in many key areas.
Additionally, OEMs continue to push for more influence in the new vehicle sales department via the “agency” business model and other initiatives. Hence, the dealer must explore key “differentiators”, with a top priority on pre-owned cars. With this comes the need for cost-effective sales and marketing tools, a top priority.
This is exactly where Phyron plays a key role. Video is an incredibly effective sales tool. AI makes the ads more powerful and automation makes the entire process more cost-effective. Early adoption is required to stay ahead of the competition. The used car department is a tremendously profitable differentiator, with every video including dealer-branded amenities and offerings. Dealer group branding has never been more critical for success, as is a high-performance culture of accountability. Phyrons software is non-invasive to dealers’ existing software systems, there are no major investment or lengthy contracts, and it lowers total sales costs.
There is more. The automatically produced and distributed video ads are ready to run on social media and external marketplaces, which makes omni-channel marketing that much simpler. Car buyers spend a major part of the buying journey online, leading to a more timely, efficient deal, in conjunction with the single point of contact trend. Despised by more than 95% of consumers, the traditional, archaic 3-person sales process may become a thing of the past.
You have comprehensive experience from ad insight into the OEM side of the business, too. How do carmakers respond to the evolving scenario?
OEMs are committed to become more involved in the distribution, marketing, and sales of new cars, as previously mentioned, via different business models. The same should not be said for used vehicles. The used-car department must be left to dealer ingenuity and entrepreneurship. The used-car department success rests almost exclusively (exception is Certified by OEM vehicles) with the dealer and it remains the greatest opportunity for the majority of new car franchises.
How would you describe your new role with Phyron?
Together with my esteemed colleague Munish Sharma, who joined Phyron’s Toronto sales team a few days after me, we will initially focus on educating car dealers and potential partners about the new technology and the tremendous opportunity it provides. We are convinced the Phyron solution is a “must-have”, not a “nice-to-have”. It’s a huge continent so we will utilize digital tools and physical travel as required.
Finally, what's it like working for a company halfway across the world?
Haha, it’s not really that far and we live in a “small” world now. The distance across Canada between Halifax and Vancouver is not much shorter than Toronto to Stockholm. We are used to it. Culturally, Canada is not overly distanced from the Nordic region as well. And we are quite familiar with Sweden as the home of Volvo and a range of successful tech companies. One thing that I personally appreciate with Phyron is the open, creative, and non-hierarchical atmosphere. It’s still early days but I have already made a lot of phyroneer friends.