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EP. 7 | Moving More Metal with AI-Powered Lending 

Keishawn Batts speaks with Alex Balk, General Manager of North Orlando CARite, addressing how AI can improve the financing process for customers and dealers alike. 

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Alex Balk

Alex Balk is the General Manager of North Orlando CARite, a Florida dealer dedicated to providing a better purchasing and financing experience for customers. 







CARite provides customers with better cars, a better buying experience and peace of mind with every purchase. CARite prioritizes the customer experience, enabling an online or in-store shopping experience. Whether consumers have established credit, or a lower credit score, they prioritize having options. CARite works with a variety of lenders to give its consumers more choices for their vehicle. Their philosophy is apply online, get approved fast and enjoy highly competitive rates. 




Whether customers prefer online or in-store shopping experiences

 Educating customers about their financing options

 Effective inventory management

 How AI lending can enable more sellable deals

“You want to be transparent with with the pricing, fees, taxes and financing options upfront.”
“Anyone can put a car on the road. You have to get the deal cashed. It doesn't matter until the money's in the bank.”
“Time kills deals. By having instant approval and knowing the stipulations upfront, AI [reduces] a lot of that time.”



The phrase “latest and greatest” is only accurate for so long when it comes to problem-solving in dealerships using new tech and strategies.

Alex Balk, General Manager of North Orlando CARite, brings a commitment to implementing new technologies and strategies to solve such problems within dealerships, and a commitment to building a better buying experience for all.

Part of that initiative is understanding what customers actually want, not only what they say they want — common to the human condition, those two elements are not always aligned.

Do customers actually prefer online automotive purchasing experiences?

Since the dawn of time, people have contradicted themselves by asking for one thing yet responding more positively to a completely different thing. 

Sometimes this comes from a misunderstanding or a difference in perspective, but most times, it comes from wanting the best of both worlds.

“The initial reaction was everyone thought customers wanted an entirely online purchasing experience — something like buying a package on Amazon — but in all reality, it was a slim percentage, especially in the used car market, that wanted to be entirely hands-off,” Balk said. 

It turned out they preferred more of a hybrid version with plenty of information upfront about the car details and financing terms. 

“You want to be transparent with the pricing — the fees, the taxes, and the financing options — up front, and then come in and do the final paperwork and test drive and make sure the car is a fit,” Balk continued. 

Customers want to know what they're qualified for, what the rates will be, their final figures, etc., ahead of time instead of coming into the dealership blind, and with CARite’s partnership with Upstart, that’s more possible than ever. 

“It's more transparent upfront, and everyone can get in the right direction without having to guess,” Balk said.

The less guessing a customer has to do, the better. Leveraging tech at the right part of the buyer's journey is just as critical as staying with the times.

The importance of effective inventory management (one-part manual, two-part tech)

Not every challenge has a comprehensive technical solution. We know this, you know this, we all know this — that doesn’t mean it’s not worth piloting potential solutions and finding solid supports for complex systems. 

“The best way I can stay ahead of the market is to be quick on inventory acquisition, and monitoring trends. Though it's not as much of a technology piece, we do have technology, “ Balk said. “We use StockWave, for example, to monitor our sales trends. It will tell you, ‘Hey, over a 45-day moving average, you might not have enough of a certain category of car,’ and will make recommendations.”

With that type of technical support, it’s simpler to stay ahead of the curve with sourcing, reconditioning, and getting cars on the market ready to hit the road, right when needed.

“Another part of it is monitoring if consumer sentiment changes on something,” Balk said. “For example, at the end of the year, everyone wants commercial vans for tax purposes. It's about having the right inventory at the right time — have those vans in November and December versus the middle of June. The key is not to overload yourself with inventory or overburden yourself with the wrong stuff, otherwise, you're just going to be sitting on it.”

Using technology, metrics, and data, helps you easily stock the right inventory and keep the lot balanced with more of what customers are looking for and less of what they aren’t.

How AI lending can help mitigate issues in the realm of financing

Today, credit is tighter than ever, even though it has a track record of loosening since 2012. This fact is not as burdensome with the right tech-supporting processes.

“That's just kind of the name of the game — every time you meet with a bank rep, they would say, ‘We're expanding, we're going to buy deeper, we're gonna go higher mileage, longer terms,’ this is the first time we've seen it in the last decade where it's the other way around,” Balk said.

With AI lending, the option for competitive rates is an easier grab, vs only looking at a score. AI shines a light on stipulations upfront, clears up questions, and helps the process stay in motion.

“It reduces the frustration for the customer, the salesperson, the manager, it really helps knowing where to go with the customer, the car, and the credit — we do everything from a 400 to 800. And we see it, we see that every day,” Balk said. “By having that experience, you know where to go with each customer and the right questions to ask each customer.” 

Whether they have a lower or higher credit score, having the correct foundation of information upfront helps provide a smoother process for all parties, and reduces more of that guesswork we’re always trying to sidestep.

Using technology to enhance the customer and salesperson experience isn’t a one-time effort — it takes a consistent willingness to try new solutions, risk failure, and experiment. 

Keeping up with the trends takes research and reiteration. 

Stay tuned for new episodes every other week on the Leadership in the Dealership Podcast.

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Stay tuned for new episodes every other week on the Leadership in the Dealership Podcast