Ahamed joined Destination Auto Group in 2012 after earning his MBA from Columbia University in New York and working internationally in microfinance and banking. His goal was to “unleash value through innovation” within the group of 363 employees, which sells the Honda, Toyota and Mazda brands through four dealerships in Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby.
Ahamed’s objective was twofold: To optimize the business and, in the event of a decline, to ensure that the real estate increases in value. In 2016, he was appointed general manager of the group, and he became the main dealer in 2019.
“During COVID, we were able to speed up decision-making from a few weeks to a day,” Ahamed said. “It has given us the ability to proactively plan for various scenarios and execute them in a way that reflects our core values in handling the concerns of our customers and associates.”
The group has used AI beyond the familiar chatbots that appear when a customer visits a dealership’s site, Ahamed said. Destination Auto operates and organizes its databases so that it can use AI to suggest sales strategies and tailored offers.
“The major challenge is to clean the data. We try to make sense of past data in a way that is useful.
“The end goal is to have relational data,” meaning information that can help determine a customer’s wants and needs.
DETAILS OF DATA DELIVERED
In sales, the detail becomes very granular, Ahamed said, recording when a customer bought a vehicle, what features appealed to the customer the most, color preferences and even features the buyer wished they had but didn’t. were not available.
“We can send them information about future vehicles with these features,” Ahamed said.
AI can speed up vehicle purchases as buyers complete more of the process online. But as the omnichannel approach evolves, Ahamed said, Destination Auto Group balances the use of AI with the most important human touch. Omnichannel refers to the technology and processes aimed at providing a seamless shopping experience for consumers, whether they buy online, in-store, or both.
“In the automotive sector, the basis is the real relationship with the guest,” he said.
Equally valuable is the use of AI in service applications. Ahamed is watching the development of technology that will provide diagnostics at the wheel of a car and identify the service needed, including tires, brakes and other components that are wearing out. Systems being developed would send a message to customers through an AI-enabled tool and allow the customer to choose which work to authorize.
Destination Auto is also exploring the use of AI to interact with vendors for seamless communications, Ahamed said, though he didn’t provide details on how those systems work.
Ahamed said he voraciously reads business publications such as the Harvard Business Review and maintains contact with his academic peers to discover new ideas that will move the business forward.