By now, you might be familiar with MyTukar, the online platform that lets you sell your car at the best price possible using tech and big data. Their expansion in 2020 is phenomenal, adding more inspection centres across the country even as the pandemic raged on. MyTukar, with Cap Bay, has also offered a lifeline to used-car dealerships to not only keep their lights on but to ensure they have cars to sell. What good is a used-car dealer if there are no good used-car for the dealer to sell? Now say that 10 times quickly.
Although you’ve seen MyTukar frequently on the news, little is know about their parent company. Formed in Singapore, Carro is an automotive marketplace that has now sprouted subsidiaries in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Yet, Carro goes beyond your standard car listing website.
As Ernest Chew, Chief Financial Officer of Carro puts it, the company is very technology and Artificial Intelligence-driven. He said, “When we look at the journey of someone buying a car, you almost always have financing, insurance, as part of the lifecycle, you have after-sales and a few other things like extended warranty. We try to participate in the used-car ecosystem, and we overlay tech and AI into a lot of things that we do.”
To someone who knows more about pistons than Python, words like tech and AI only means that searching for used-cars online is made more straightforward and accurate. While my thinking isn’t wrong, it barely scratches the surface of big data’s true potential with AI. Ernest points out that it does much more than that because there are many more factors to consider when buying and selling a used car than a new car.
“Used-cars are a slightly different creature,” said Ernest. “One used car, a BMW X5, 2019 could be slightly different from another 2019 BMW X5. Primarily because it is the way that it is driven, the car may have an accident or two, and the mileage could be a lot higher. There are certain conditions of the car where it requires a little bit of looking and inspecting. A lot of our inspectors, in the past, rely on the eye. We look at defects, and we take the pictures.
“Now, we have already developed machine vision. So, basically, we load up the pictures and even on the phone. It will immediately tell that person where to focus in terms of defects. It automatically tells you that there’s a dent here and there.”
Machine vision is something that’s been around for not very long. It is how you might imagined it to be. Machine vision obtains information from images using technology and software. These images are obtained from an image processing device, which is basically any digital camera.
By removing human involvement from part of the process, Carro can decrease human errors when detecting defect and reduce inspection time. This also builds a database that they can pull pertinent information from, improving the accuracy during the inspection. MyTukar has already implemented this tech into their process.
Exterior condition aside, the data obtained from the vehicle makes it easier to track its valuation. One such data is the vehicle’s mileage. As we all know, mileage does affect the value of the car. Logic states that a car that has travelled far is subjected to more wear and tear than one that only does the school-grocery-home-run. Carro is able to adjust prices for a 20,000km car versus a 50,000km car by applying big data.
Big data has also made it possible for Carro to determine when is the best time to buy or sell. One such example was car prices before CMCO. During CMCO, used-car prices dipped because of overstocking and uncertainty.
“Our pricing is more dynamic,” said Ernest. “We can tell you if you’re not pressed for cash, you should probably not sell this week. We think actually you can get a better price for this.”
There is no denying that 2020 is an extraordinary year marked by an infectious virus and subsequent lockdowns that tried to curb its spread. This kept people indoors and businesses shuttered, some permanently. However, for Carro, like many other tech companies, the pandemic has accelerated plans that allow these companies to experience strong performances, unlike previous years.
“We actually have record volumes this year. And immediately after the MCO, about one or two months down, the market went a little bit crazy. The used-car pricing was higher in that period versus the same car after one year of depreciation compared to last year,” said Ernest.
He continues, “Used-car sales picked up a month or so after CMCO started and used-car dealerships actually ran out of stocks to sell. And they started bidding for used-cars because they know they have consumers at the back looking for some of these cars. So, prices went up, supplies went up. So, around August was peak car pricing this year.”
When asked if they were more people buying or selling their cars, Ernest said they were both. “So, if you look at a couple of factors. A person who would normally travel by public transport to work suddenly feels that he wants to take a private vehicle because it’s a safer environment. Even in COVID, I still need to generate my income and still need to get to the office. Maybe, I’ll buy a cheaper used-car rather than go for a new car.”
He continued to give examples of families who needed to upgrade to a newer car because their current one has begun to show wear. It could also be families with surplus cars wishing to offload one to cut daily expenses.
Ernest says that 2020 has been a terrific year, and this isn’t going to be a one-off. In Malaysia, the biggest issue experienced by MyTukar is that they cannot hire fast enough.
Like every business, Carro and MyTukar pulled up the handbrakes at the start of the MCO. They stopped hiring and were trimming down to make sure the retained staff were of quality standards. And they took to opportunity to improve processes and SOPs. MyTukar had seven branches nationwide when the MCO started but have since added another eight branches at the end of 2020.
“So, that’s more than doubling up. Those are additional capacity, and our volume has doubled as well. There’s a lot of hiring, the bottleneck is the hiring. So many things that we want to do but we can’t because of this bottleneck limiting our expansion plan,” said Ernest.
Nevertheless, Ernest appreciates the turn of fortune, “We are lucky. But I think these structural trends are anticipated. We planned for a lot of things, the pandemic accelerated these structural trends. This year has been a terrific year, but this is exceptional. And it is not going to be a one-off. This is an acceleration of various trends in our favour.”
The growth that Carro and MyTukar are experiencing is no less impressive. With more technology and innovation are being developed and employed, the company can change how a car is sold. The possibility of getting a better deal without having to haggle with used-car dealers is the way forward for anyone who wants to sell without hassle.
Given enough time, Carro and MyTukar could be involved in all aspects of your car-buying journey. This changes everything, and it may well be the ‘new normal’ of selling your car.