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Wheels up: How Aussie start-up Carma is driving change in the auto industry

Australian online start-up Carma may have launched less than a year ago, but it’s already disrupted the used car industry and recently received $75 million in series A funding. 

In a sector normally associated with untrustworthy salespeople in dodgy dealerships and a long, arduous buying journey, the used car sector was ripe for change. 

“I’ve grown up in a family where we always bought used cars and I’ve had all of the experiences from getting great quality cars from private sellers to in the worst case, where I bought a car that ended up needing a full engine rebuild,” said Carma co-founder Yosuke Hall during a recent webinar with Commercetools. 

“We saw this as a huge opportunity for a country that transacts 4 million used cars every single year. We thought we could build Carma and really change the experience.”

An end-to-end experience

From its large selection of vehicles at fixed prices to its custom production and refurbishment process, the team at Carma has transformed the typical car buying experience for customers. Each vehicle is carefully vetted and tested by the team at Carma at its purpose-built facility to ensure it’s safe and up to standard. 

Meanwhile, customers can enjoy an interactive 360-degree-view of vehicles in a virtual showroom, where they open and close the doors and check out the interior and exterior. 

“Being an online business, one of the core things we do is free home delivery. Once you’ve selected the car that you want, we’ll prepare it, put it on the back of one of our custom car carriers and deliver it to your door,” explained Hall. 

“Traditionally, customers get a 10-minute test drive. That usually isn’t enough to figure out whether that car is right for you and your lifestyle. Instead, we give you a seven-day return policy, so you can make sure that the car suits your lifestyle and your family – the kids’ car seats fit in the back or the sporting equipment can go in the boot. Whatever the case, if it doesn’t fit right for any reason, you can return it to us and we’ll pick it up from you.” 

A new kind of checkout

Perhaps one of the most unique features that the team at Carma has developed is the online checkout system. In order to ensure that when a customer has started the checkout process, their car hasn’t been sold to someone else, the team implemented a two-hour timer. 

“Once you start the process with a vehicle, that car is reserved, but the timer is there so that you can’t hold it indefinitely without placing a deposit,” explained Hall.  

“The other thing that we’ve done is the checkout process also includes an integration with our partner lenders. So we’re partnering with some of the most tech-forward lenders in the space, which offer API integrations for quoting rates and applications. At the moment, you can check out and get some quotes from these lenders, but in the future, we’ll be building in the full application process and throughout checkout as well.”

Carma worked with Commercetools and used its composable commerce product to develop an online platform that would help them remain agile, flexible and able to scale up fast.

“We’re enabling Carma to just focus on building what they need to build. They’re not having to build around a set of constraints based on a platform and how it behaves and having to work around it in a difficult and costly way,” explained customer success manager Rob McColl. 

“In the future, when their business scales and evolves, they will be able to just change those component parts of their solution without having to throw out the whole thing. It’s a super flexible, super performance, super scalable way of building product.” 

What’s next for Carma

Since Carma launched, it’s been serving only the Sydney market, up to the Central Coast, down to Shellharbour and over to the Blue Mountains. Now, Hall and his team are focused on setting up in Melbourne, with plans to offer more than 2000 cars. After that, the business will expand across the entire country. 

However, going interstate is no easy task, given every state has different regulations regarding how to sell and advertise a vehicle. 

“We need to make sure that we’re being compliant in every state that we’re operating in. So again, that means our technology stack really needs to be flexible to do that,” explained Hall. 

“Our aim is for customers to be able to purchase a car, regardless of the location of the vehicle and have that same memorable experience wherever they are.”

To watch the webinar with Carma and Commercetools, click here