The process of picking up a new car just became (almost) as easy as purchasing a can of soda. Phoenix-based Carvana, which set out four years ago to disrupt and automate the car-buying process, has opened its newest coin-operated car vending machine tower in Austin, TX. Identical in function to its car vending towers in Houston and Nashville, TN, Carvana’s delivery system is a German-engineered, state-of-the-art, five-story glass tower that uses robotics and moving platforms to deliver cars to buyers, who drop in a large ceremonial coin that triggers the machinery into action.
Carvana’s mission is to allow customers to research and purchase a car online and receive it in person by the next day. Customers also manage the financing and car trade-in processes through Carvana’s online platform and mobile application. Once purchased, the car can be delivered to the customer’s front door, or the customer can choose to utilize one of Carvana’s car vending machines to retrieve the vehicle.
Since the launch of its technology-driven model, Carvana has been successful primarily because of its inherent efficiency and cost-saving incentives for both the customer and automobile manufacturers. According to Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia, “Our mission is to remove the stress and anxiety from the car-buying experience and make the process fun and exciting.”
One goal of the vending machine distribution is to drastically lower overhead costs. While the Carvana vending machine is expensive to build up front—the one in Austin cost $1.5 million according to the Austin-American Statesman—the company is betting on the fact that the automated towers will become inexpensive as more are rolled out. Garcia says the robotic tower allows Carvana to sell cars for up to $2,000 less than most dealerships, as it can employ fewer on-site staff. Also, Carvana doesn’t store any local inventory and it doesn’t need test-drive space, so its dealership locations require less acreage.
Insert Coin for Automated Delivery
When a customer makes a purchase from the Carvana website, the customer can opt to have it sent to one of the vending machine locations. When the financial transaction is complete, Carvana sends the purchased car from one if its distribution centers (in Atlanta or Dallas) to the designated tower. The five-story Austin and Nashville vending machines can hold up to 20 cars, while the eight-story model in Houston has space for up to 30.
The vending machine has three delivery bays and allows customers to watch the entire vehicle retrieval process as it happens. To pick up, customers enter their name on a tablet in the lobby and drops an oversized coin into the car vending machine’s control panel, which lights up and initiates the apparatus. The vending machine uses robotics to retrieve the car from the tower and places it on a conveyor belt, which moves the car through the tower until it reaches and enters the designated delivery bay. The bay automatically opens, and the customer is invited in to take possession.
If the customer feels that the vehicle isn’t the right fit, Carvana provides them the opportunity to test it for up to one week and return it free of charge with a complete refund. If the customer doesn’t live close to one of the car vending machines, Carvana will provide up to $200 in travel fare for customers to have the tower pick-up experience.
The Rise of Automated Parking Garages
The Carvana’s car vending machine is one of many installments in the expanding automation of the automobile industry. As urban centers continue to face rising population sizes, as well as expanding retail and housing developments, the smart parking and self-driving automobile markets are quickly becoming the new norm.
The logistics and process of Carvana’s vending machine closely mirrors that of Park Plus in Boulder, CO. Park Plus’ mechanical parking process includes car-scanning lasers and a robotic valet system that transports these cars to storage centers that can hold more than four times the amount of cars than that of the average parking garage. That automated system can deliver vehicles within 2 minutes of a retrieval request, as reported in Forbes.
With the rise in automated vehicles sales and smart distribution technology, it is likely that Carvana’s car vending machine is just the first of many innovative projects to decrease the costs and increase the efficiency of the buying process for the automobile industry and its stakeholders.