Is it worth investing time and effort into AI for your car dealership?

  • How is Auto Trader using AI and what can dealers do with it?
  • Catherine Faiers talks to Car Dealer about what’s next for AI in automotive retail
  • Watch our exclusive video interview above

Time 7:12 am, February 26, 2024

Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be the latest buzzword for business – but working out what it can and can’t do to help in your car dealership is hard work.

Car Dealer has been trying its hand at selling used cars with the help of AI for a YouTube video series and while it’s assisted in small parts, so far there have been no groundbreaking discoveries.

But our fairly basic experiments doesn’t mean there’s not a place for AI in the car dealership of the future. 

Catherine Faiers, chief operating officer of advertising marketplace Auto Trader, believes there are many areas AI can help and in fact dealers might not even know they are already using AI every time they log in to their Auto Trader portal.

In a video interview about the technology, which you can watch above, Faiers said: ‘I think some of the early examples where we’ve seen AI being used has been for simple jobs: advert creation, for descriptions, for finding out information – relatively simple prompts or questions for AI tools. 

‘Some dealers have been, as you’ve been, experimenting with some of the different technologies that are openly available out there for retailers to use. 

‘The reality is for any retailer that partners with us, they are already using AI every time they are interacting with one of our platforms.

‘Whether it’s to price a car through that valuation, whether it’s to look at the retail rating, whether it’s to look at that market health data – in almost every job that retailers are doing, either in our portal or through our connections into other technology partners, they’re using tools and solutions to run their businesses that are powered by AI.’

So far Car Dealer’s project has seen AI help come up with the name for our used car business – the Clever Car Collection – it has tried to help guide us on choosing a bank (unsuccessfully), it helped design the business’ logo (again, a little unsuccessfully) and we’ve even tried calling upon its assistance to help us highlight which used cars to buy (again, you guessed it, unsuccessfully). 

However, what we really want AI to do is act as a digital apprentice for the dealership that learns our ways every time it helps – but it can’t do that, just yet.

We’re working on a tool that will use AI to help us shortlist which cars to buy from auction houses and another that will talk to customers, qualify the lead and price their cars in real time during an online chat. However, the way we want it to work is not how it currently does – hence progress has stalled.

Faiers says Auto Trader is trying to work out where AI can help further in its platforms too. 

‘We’ve been on a journey for about 10 years now of building a team that is able to use machine learning initially, and more recently AI-type techniques, to bring the data that we have to retailers,’ she said.

‘We’ve seen some retailers use ChatGPT to make vehicle descriptions a bit better, but we haven’t seen consumers interacting with ChatGPT in a big way as part of their buying journey.’

Faiers says the power of AI really comes from the data that it’s fed with and Auto Trader is rich in that.

She said it has 85m visits to its platform a month and ‘1000s of millions of interactions with retailers’ which it is using to help guide its AI solutions.

‘We’re trying to combine all the unique data and observations that we have, using the best AI and large language technology and capability out there, to bring solutions that are meaningful, relevant and can actually be used by retailers and car buyers,’ she explained.

She highlights the algorithms that work in Netflix or Spotify that help suggest films or music you might be interested in by your recent searches and feedback as an example of how Auto Trader might harness the power of AI.

AI Car Dealership project episodes:

Faiers said car dealers will be using AI-assisted data every time they look at Auto Trader’s new Trended Valuations tool which aims to predict what’s going to happen next with a used car’s price.

And Faiers also issues a word of warning to dealers dipping their toe in the water with AI: It can sometimes be misleading.

‘I think from a retail perspective, trying to stay close to consumers, to that consumer buying journey and how that’s evolving, like experimenting yourself with some of the consumer facing tools and applications that are out there, is important,’ she said.

‘You found quite quickly some of the challenges with these very generalist and generic based large language models – they’re very good at quite simple or news based questions, or fact based observations, but as soon as you’re layering in complexities of data, or verticals that are more complex, then some of the responses you can get can be at best superficial, and at times, quite misleading.’

Faiers acknowledged the ‘raging debate’ between those who think ‘AI is full of hope and those who are worried about the risks’, but what’s next for AI in car dealerships? 

She said: ‘We’re absolutely committed to continuing to invest in AI and I probably lean more towards the hope spectrum. 

‘I think it is full of opportunity for our industry if and and when it’s used in the right way.’

Faiers will be speaking as part of Auto Trader’s headline partnership with our forthcoming Car Dealer Live event, taking place next week (March 7). 

She’ll be discussing how the online used car buying journey is evolving, delving into used car price fluctuations and looking at what’s really happening with EVs. Tickets are available, with a special rate for car dealers, at

Are you using AI in your business? If so what’s working and what’s not? Let us know by emailing your comments using the email button below.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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