As DealerSocket, Auto/Mate sync up, a search for ‘quick wins’

Industry

With its acquisition of Auto/Mate complete and this year’s NADA Show in the rearview mirror, dealership software company DealerSocket is turning its attention to syncing the two companies’ systems.

DealerSocket, whose products include a customer relationship management system, dealership websites and digital marketing services, is in the process of integrating Auto/Mate’s franchised dealership management system as it works to offer dealers a full platform of technology tools. That full platform is something that DealerSocket leaders have wanted for years.

The combined company intends to move quickly, but DealerSocket and Auto/Mate executives told Automotive News last month it was too soon to identify which new capabilities will come first.

“Our plan is to have some quick wins within the first 60 days,” DealerSocket CEO Sejal Pietrzak said in an interview at the NADA Show in Las Vegas.

“Across the board from an innovation standpoint, you will see lots of pieces around us working together and integrating,” Pietrzak said. “Nobody in the market has true seamless integration of workflow and of reporting and data amongst all of the products, and that’s really one of the key things that we’ll be spending time on.”

DealerSocket finalized its purchase of Auto/Mate a month ago this week after an agreement was reached to settle a lawsuit brought by Brad Perry, one of DealerSocket’s co-founders. Perry sued to block the acquisition on the grounds that he, as a DealerSocket board member, did not receive enough information to evaluate the deal.

Perry also contended that DealerSocket, private equity company and DealerSocket majority owner Vista Equity Partners, plus several board members, deliberately withheld details about the Auto/Mate acquisition as part of an effort to dilute the minority stakes he and another co-founder held.

The agreement to resolve the lawsuit prompted a judge Feb. 10 to lift a temporary restraining order that had prevented the deal from going forward. The transaction was finalized hours later — days before the NADA Show kicked off.

DealerSocket and Auto/Mate had separate booths on the show floor, but “we’ve had opportunities between the product teams to start to gel, and certainly between the sales and marketing organizations to talk a little bit,” Auto/Mate Chairman Larry Colson said. “We’re going to do a lot more of that over the coming weeks.”

Before the integration, DealerSocket offered a DMS only to independent dealerships. Colson said the addition of Auto/Mate’s DMS now gives DealerSocket more options to connect its software tools with franchised dealerships.

Beyond the full-platform integrations, Pietrzak said DealerSocket plans to invest in expanding the business, including the use of artificial intelligence.

Both companies rolled out new features at the NADA Show. DealerSocket’s features include enabling dealership employees to send text messages from the store’s website and also through the CRM and upgrades to its DealerFire digital marketing and website platform. Auto/Mate unveiled a tool to generate fixed operations reports.

Pietrzak said DealerSocket hadn’t considered partnering with any DMS provider besides Auto/Mate. For Auto/Mate, DealerSocket’s interest came after the Federal Trade Commission blocked DMS giant CDK Global Inc. from buying Auto/Mate in 2018, citing anti-competitive reasons.

DealerSocket has about 8,000 dealership customers, while Auto/Mate has roughly 1,500 dealerships using its DMS.

Pietrzak and Auto/Mate CEO Mike Esposito both said they received congratulations from dealers but added that they also heard from dealers who are nervous that their experience with Auto/Mate could change. To those dealers, they offered reassurance.

“We are not planning on changing what has been an incredible service-oriented culture,” Pietrzak said. It is “dealer-first, very focused on the needs of the dealer, and we love that about Auto/Mate. And in fact, we’re taking very much a ‘Let’s learn your best practices, and we’ll share our best practices’ [approach], and we’re very much collaborating in this partnership together. And so dealers should not worry about that.”

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