More and more people are getting interested in the concept of VRM, owning and managing your data on your own terms, connecting to brands when you want it. Not when they decide to disrupt you.

During the Breakthrough Summit I met an investor into a new car site: CarWoo! The site allows potential buyers to receive competitive offers from several dealers while preserving their privacy. Using an asynchronous messaging system embedded in the CarWoo website, the buyer can engage with multiple dealers anonymously, ask questions and negotiate. Interestingly, all conversations between the parties is visible to other dealers, turning the interaction between buyers and dealers into a very competitive environment. CarWoo! claims that it will never send spam or unsolicited email to buyers, it doesn’t take any money from dealers. According to CarWoo, 3000 dealers signed up so far and 50-100 dealers are added each week.

In my opinion, CarWoo! falls short when it comes to monetization: It costs buyers $19 to get 2-3 dealers to compete for offers, for $49 3-5 dealers will compete for your business. The reason is clear: Dealers want to communicate with qualified leads, people that are serious about their purchase. This initial hurdle of $19 or $49 will weed out the window shoppers. However, this is very seller-centric.

To get qualified leads in the system costs automotive companies a lot of money and I find it curious that CarWoo! doesn’t have a way for buyers to get reimbursed for their initial investment in the site. At the minimum, CarWoo! should work with dealers to offer easy refunds for test drives or the actual purchase of the car.

As many VRM pundits said before, VRM is beneficial for buyers AND sellers. Whether people decide the service is worth the fee remains to be seen. I like the overall concept of CarWoo! and I wish them well.

Much more to come.