30 Most Reputable Companies Of The Year 2018

DriveTime Automotive Group, Inc: Disrupting the Used-car Industry

thesiliconreview-image-drivetime-automotive-group-2018-logoWe have sold vehicles to over one million people across the nation, but we are not stopping there. We are reimagining the entire retail sales experience and we are just getting started: Ernie Garcia

In today’s age of having to get things done easy and fast, consumers want their car buying experience to be the same. A recent study done by Cox Automotive indicated that only 17 out of 14,002 people surveyed actually liked their dealership experience. But the industry has been slow to move away from what feels like an all-day sales process, and the back and forth on price with the “Wizard of Oz behind the curtain” in the dealership’s back office.

Looking for solutions? A new way to find and buy a vehicle? We are thrilled to present DriveTime Automotive Group, Inc. – a leading independent retailer of used automobiles in the United States. The company was founded in 1992 with two dealerships in Tucson and today is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.

Interview Excerpt: Ernie Garcia, Founder

Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?

DriveTime’s focus was to fill a need in providing quality vehicles and affordable financing to customers. Today, we provide used vehicles and financing to the full range of customers in the market. Over the last 15 years, we have organically grown our existing retail and loan servicing operations. We now have over 145 dealerships nationwide, selling more than 150,000 used vehicles a year. There are over 1.2 million monthly visitors to our website, over $2 billion in consumer requested credit monthly, and over 68 percent of our sales are initiated online. Since 1996, we have originated over one million loans for over $14 billion.

We have also seeded SilverRock, a standalone ancillary product provider and administrator, operating in the continental United States with almost 300 employees and over $70 million in annual claims administered; BlueShore, a nationwide, Colorado domiciled property and casualty insurer; and Carvana, a publicly traded online used vehicle sales company.

“Earning trust and respect of consumers all around the world is through consistent focus on delivering high quality in all of our actions.” How do you interpret this statement?

It’s about listening to the customer, and delivering on and exceeding their expectations. It starts with the purchase of the vehicle and continues throughout the customer’s lifecycle with us:

  • No buy list – We have identified vehicles with higher incidences of repairs after the sale, and have eliminated them from our buy strategy (we don’t buy them).
  • Inspection process – We focus on the safety and operability of the vehicle.
  • Transparency –We publish prices online and on our vehicles at the dealerships; no haggle pricing; financing terms online; 5 day no questions asked return policy; sales process designed to help the customer find what they need and want (no industry typical back office F&I black box games of back and forth with a manager as part of the sales process); video explaining our products (VSC, GAP, GPS), including restrictions/limitations; and a video outlining the key things for the customer to focus on during contract signing.
  • ‘Digital listening’ (not the bad kind) – We are executing an integrated experimentation platform for experiential learning and real-time online changes based on customer behavior and use of our site.

Tell us about your new mobile site launch.

Our new mobile site continues our efforts to re-imagine the customer experience by: 

  • Removing obstacles to core site functionality (i.e., searching inventory or dealerships)
  • Improved and faster page navigation when customers are on our site (single-page application platform),
  • Changes to content layout and imagery based on user behavior (better “listening” to our customers),
  • Content tailored to the phone location (geolocation logic)(more listening)
  • Enhanced vehicle photos, and enhanced display of key vehicle features
  • New search filters to enable customers to find exactly what they are looking for in DriveTime’s new used car inventory, including prior owners and accidents (more listening),
  • Market price comparisons on all of the new used car inventory,
  • Three days guaranteed online pricing of customer trade-ins,
  • Easy to find Autocheck vehicle history reports on any of the 14,000+ DriveTime used vehicles available nationwide,
  • New self-help customer service approach with FAQ’s, and
  • Enhanced SEO page indexing.

Our online team, part of our 125-person IT organization, implemented this best in breed solution, incrementally delivering data as required to make the used car shopping experience as fast as possible.  We accomplished this using the Angular 4+ client-side framework and Node.js for the server build, and for data and other dependencies we were able to use bleeding edge technologies like Azure CosmosDB, Azure Search, Azure CDN, Redis Cache and Azure Service Bus. We will also continue investing in different ways to ‘listen’ to our customers and make changes tied to what they tell us.

Testimonials: A Few of Our Customers


“From the moment we entered the door it was the best car buying experience I have ever had. I will definitely recommend DriveTime to anyone looking to purchase a good used car.”


“My husband and I had a great experience at DriveTime! The staff was polite, open and professional! No gimmicks, no fast talkers.”


“This was the first time ever buying a vehicle on my own. I walked in and was so nervous I almost passed out. Everybody there was so nice.”


“My Sales Adviser was an expert in his field, quick and positive in helping me get my car. I am very satisfied that the process didn’t take so long and that there were no issues!”


“I came in with a budget and they made it work so that I was leaving with a car, a great low mileage 2016 at that.”

Building a culture of sustainability inside an organization is very important to maintain a reputation in the global market. How is it true for your company?

We define culture as how we interact with one another; particularly in getting things done. We strive to be an interdependent company with the foundations of our culture based in informality, connectivity, communication, working together, change, learning, open/respectful dialogue, fun, trust and respect, among other things. We have a zero tolerance for integrity issues.

Informality de-emphasizes hierarchy and silos, promotes boundary-spanning between groups, and a ‘no door’ (vs open door) approach encourages everyone to interact more frequently across all companies and levels. This is reflected in and reinforced by our facilities:

Home Office: No offices, not even for executive management; open desk design, no cubes.

Operations Centers: No offices for management.

Dealerships: No F&I back offices, just one manager’s office - all glass, and sale closes are not conducted there.


A core belief is that if we are not changing, as an organization and as people, we are falling behind and will eventually fail. We also believe that an interdependent company is best positioned to change and adapt to change in the rapidly evolving and competitive world we all live in today. 

We also believe in the organic growth of our operations and our people. Our culture of learning and development stresses non-linear career paths (i.e., a salesperson may end up in collections or an operations center; we have many examples of this) and emphasizes our current employees over outside hires. Because of the potential opportunities available due to the breadth of our operations (retail sales, operations, ancillary product administration, loan servicing), it allows us to attract employees with diverse experience and backgrounds to the company. They start in one position, prove themselves, learn more about the company and other potential opportunities, and then move to completely different areas as opportunities arise that align with their interests.

As a follow-up question on sustainability, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

We will continue to innovate in our business and evolve our culture, wherever that may take us.

The Brain Behind The Operation

Ernie Garcia: Ernie Garcia is the founder of  DriveTime Automotive Group, Inc.

“We have established a culture that enables individuals to leverage their strengths while also collaborating and learning from others.”