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Hackomotive

hackomotive Edmunds.com sponsored a "three-day competition" to try to find new ways to improve the car-buying experience, reports Jaclyn Trop in The New York Times (3/10/14). "There are elements of the process that are ripe for disruption," says Edmunds chief executive Avi Steinlauf, specifically citing pricing information, test drives, financing and registration. The three-day event, called Hackomotive, attracted a total of 68 teams, each competing to overhaul the traditional car-buying model.

Among the competitors was Carvoyant, which "lets shoppers subscribe to a monthly service and, after a background check, receive a lockbox code to obtain keys to any car they would like to drive." Another entrant, Carclips.com, combines "eBay’s auction style with PayPal’s reliability in verifying vehicle title and funds." The concept "addresses the lack of urgency in the business," says Tim Kelly, a car dealer who developed the site. Au.to, meanwhile, describes itself as "Google for cars," intended to make it easier for users to find the right car.

Hackomotive’s winner — and recipient of a $20,000 prize — was Carcode.me, which "allows car shoppers to communicate by text message with dealers through an app that dealerships can use to respond to inquiries." It’s not yet known "whether any of the projects would encounter legal obstacles," which for car dealerships vary by state. However, Hans-Werner Kaas of McKinsey says Hackomotive’s message is unmistakable — that visiting dealerships to browse and buy cars "is a story of the past."