An Interview with Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith of Motorphilia

I bought a 2010 Chevy Camaro SS from Aaron Smith of Motorphilia. Here’s an interview I did with Aaron surrounding the experience.

Chris Brogan: What led to the start of Motorphilia instead of an asphalt dealership?

Aaron Smith: I started Motorphilia after seeing how corrupt the car dealer market is and how it baffles me that as much as people love cars, they (for the most part) hate going to auto dealerships to buy cars. I’m wanting to end this and I’m trying to change the way car deals work for everyone.

We actually are still technically a “brick and mortar” dealership and we have a location in Georgetown, TX where we store and shoot our cars in a larger aircraft hangar. We are actually licensed and bonded in the State of Texas as an independent auto dealership and initially, we started off as a spin-off from a local BMW dealer’s eBay store which I started back in late 2002.

The store did very well and I became on of eBaymotors’ top sellers and as a result of being involved with this, I was able to put together processes that streamlined the whole online purchasing experience for customers.

After establishing a good relation with the people of eBaymotors, I was invited to help write a law that would allow car deals on the internet to be moved outside of “brick and mortar” dealerships in Texas in April 2007 and 4 days after this law was passed, I started Motorphilia and sent in my letter of resignation to the BMW dealer I was working with for the past 5 years and made an offer to buy out all of their equipment and rights to their eBay store.

Another one of my good clients offered to let me rent his aircraft hangar about 20 miles outside of Austin and we were set to go . . .

Once we were licensed about 2 months later, I took everything I saved and invested it into a floor plan that allowed me to get $150,000 credit to buy cars and then Motorphilia was opened for business.

About a year after being opened, I realized that eBay was dying and I decided to start moving away from using this as our main sales venue and I realized that what eBay initially offered as a way for people to find trust worthy sellers, but there was a new medium to establish trust with people online. That was through social media and through developing real relationships with people and, essentially, bringing small-town business to the internet.

Now I’ve made a commitment to continually find ways to connect with people and focus on the establishment of solid relationship building and, also, providing valuable and credible information about cars to our clients and make Motorphilia the most trusted source for automotive information and the simplest method for people to find the right car while saving time, money, and dealership hassles.

In the end, I want for people to experience buyer’s glee -like yourself.

That’s what warms my heart and makes doing this everyday worth it to me and it’s our goal to scale out soon and help more people and change the was that the car business works across the United States, and hopefully business, in general.

We’ll see.

How many cars are you processing right now on a good month?

18 to 20. We really can’t handle much more than this right now. We’re currently working on scaling out so that we can do more and we’re considering opening up to select investors so that we can increases our buying power.

What do you do to instill trust in people remotely? I mean, we met once, and I’ve ridden around Austin with you once, but what about sight unseen? How do you convince people to mail you big checks?

People don’t want to be sold –well not the people I work with. I’ve found people like information and transparency. We’re about helping people make good choices, not convincing them to buy something they don’t want.

I think one thing that people like about Motorphilia vs traditional dealers is that because of the way our business model works, we have no commitment to ant one piece of inventory or brand.

For an example, as with you, I didn’t have to try to convince you that you could like another color or an automatic transmission with your Camaro. I just pulled up my options with the auction network and found want you wanted in a couple different areas and then selected the best one to meet what you were looking for and established pricing based upon the market averages and I got it for you once I got the ok from you.

There was no pitch, I just gave you the facts, and we worked extra hard on the backend to verify the accuracy of the information that was given to you.

This is how I am with all of my clients though. For me, credibility is critical.

As for why people give us big checks? I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years and it’s not too hard for people to talk to someone who has worked with me.

I guess one other element that helps is that we’re not into people making rash decisions or letting them act on impulse. We want to help people take their time and I think when you do this, people realize that you’re not just trying to sell them some metal, but you really do care. Does that make sense?

I also think the Facebook element helps because people see what we’re upto on a regular basis and who we’re helping. For me, it’s not so much a marketing thing though as way to celebrate helping someone.

I mean, Meg and I were just so happy when you got your car. That made our day and to see that you are enjoying it, is wonderful!

How do you think dealerships are going to change in the next few years?

Dealerships are no longer needed in the traditional sense, they are just distribution points with bloated overhead and egos to match: That’s it. I believe the future of this business is set in creating a system that helps people make good choices and doesn’t scare them into thinking they need to buy a new car all of the time. I see a service that matches people who are selling with people who are looking and it assures credibility by people’s relationships already being established and working off referrals. On the new car side, dealerships should scale down with a few sample cars and allow people to order and have the cars dropped off at their house. As foe trades, they become part of this network where people are helping each other out. I believe in something more alive and organic being possible – if that makes any sense.

I’ve actually been working on the concept of setting up remote Motorphilia locations where people can place their orders, but I’m still teetering on the idea if it’s good or not at this point.

What are you doing to market that others haven’t quite figured out?

I believe it’s been the fact that I’ve been doing this on faith and the growing belief that more than looking at balance sheets, it’s looking at people and caring for then and continually looking at ways to help others have easier and fuller lives that we’re finding our niche. Chris, we really do give a damn about you and all of our clients.

We are profitable, by the way, and we’re getting considerably stronger financially every single month, but this is not our focus.

One reason why I’ve never wanted to take on financial partners or investors at this point is that I could care less about getting rich doing this and I care far more knowing that we helped someone have a little bit better life today and that we helped someone make a good choice that we saved them money and allowed them some more time on what really mattered most:living their life.

This is also the cross roads where I see us right now, in how do we grow? This is the next question I’m trying to answer.

Aaron Smith is the man behind Motorphilia. I recently bought a car from Aaron’s company, and this interview came out of me wanting to document the experience, plus tell dealerships why I went with a virtual dealership in Texas over my local choices.

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  • http://twitter.com/derekbarney Derek Barney

    I had a brother in-law work for a major car company very high up. I was considered on the A plan but what I got was better. When I wanted a Volvo he put me in touch with the appropriate person and I told him what I wanted and what I wanted to pay. He found my car in NJ and shipped it to me in NH. It wasn’t at a dealership, but in the “Volvo car auction system” It sounds like the same type of model Aaron is using…kinda.

  • http://www.motorphilia.com motorphilia

    It’s very similar, but we’ve networked with almost 400 auction houses and have a virtual inventory of 130,000 to 190,000 cars any given week. We actually buy from BMW, GM, Toyota, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Honda, Lexus, and many other large and reputable sources.

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Awesome share. What I loved about this and how I see parallels with the online economy and the lifestyle business I pursue is that it’s about helping people. “looking at people and caring for then and continually looking at ways to help others have easier and fuller lives” … doesn’t get better than that…I wish you much success Aaron, I think your model will continue to grow and other like it will be creeping up in our industries soon enough.

  • http://www.motorphilia.com motorphilia

    I’m praying that it does . . . it’s time for a change in how business looks at people and relationships.

  • http://reallifemadman.blogspot.com Marjorie Clayman

    Very interesting insights into how a person can adjust and react to the ever-changing modern business environment while carrying their corporate soul with them. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Agreed, if you ever need tech support/advising along the way, I’m glad to help!

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  • Anonymous

    Great interview! If I’m ever in the market for a used Camaro, I’ll inquire about yours, Chris. It will have next to zero miles on it with how much you travel by air. =)

  • http://www.motorphilia.com motorphilia

    Certainly . . . we’re grateful for any help people are willing to lend.

  • http://www.wilsonusman.com/ Wilson Usman

    When I am ready to buy a Range Rover “my dream car” I will contact you Aaron. You’re the Man!

  • Iforget

    i dunno about that :)
    he jumps into it at the slightest mention of needing something at the store.
    He’s been sooooo helpful as of late :)

  • http://www.webhostinglogic.com/web-marketing/web-marketing-home.html SEO Guru

    I couldn’t agree more with Aaron regarding those alligators at car dealer shops. They are out to gain more than sell the cars. They are masters of deception. It’s a good thing Aaron started that website and has some options for people looking for cars.

  • Andrew Richards098

    I have to say, I really like what what your doing here Aaron. I really dislike going car shopping because I feel like I have to be on guard at all times so I don’t get ripped off. We wouldn’t accept some of these tactics in any of our other purchases so why are cars different. Good luck with this endeavor I hope it really takes off.

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  • Anonymous

    I’m totally buying my next car from Aaron. Thanks for sharing Chris. His site reflects the feelings he conveyed in the interview!!! Like this guy!

    It brought back flashbacks of my last car buying experience. Not good.

  • http://twitter.com/jasperblu Cheryl

    This is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of! Who doesn’t hate the process of car shopping? Or more specifically the process of car BUYING – especially from any kind of dealership. It takes HOURS and HOURS, even when you’re paying cash (which I did the last time I purchased a vehicle in 2008; a brand new Subaru Tribeca. It took over 6 hours!).

    I love to read about business & innovation (and how PEOPLE are really at the heart of those two things, or at least should be) and you never fail to disappoint me Chris. Thanks! I’ll be looking Aaron up next time I’m in the market for a car.

  • http://twitter.com/stevegravity Steve Gilman

    This is a great article, and a great example of a helpful blog. When I started following you, I didn’t think I’d find cool car buying advice and learn about a company like Motorphilia, but I appreciate that you cover a wide range of topics, thanks for sharing this experience. I think I’ll try Aaron next time I’m in the market for a car. And, congrats on the cool Camaro!

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting for me as European who only leases cars. Why would Aaron say that car dealerships are corrupt? Why is Ebay “dying”?

  • http://www.motorphilia.com motorphilia

    For the most part dealers are committed to a product (and not their client’s best interest) due to the franchise system and also into maximizing profit per client on a short term base due to overwhelming operation costs . . . along with this model, comes the incredible depreciation clients see after buying a new car and dealer’s willingness to trade people out of cars when they do not need to . . . we call this “being upside down”. . . there are millions of people in the United States who are committed to making ongoing payments into cars and not owning any property or any investment to help their actual financial stability. Their children’s educations, their homestead, and their over all security are jeopardized because dealer’s encourage an environment of fear where the average person in the United States owns a car for 3 years and then they trade out . . . and the average auto note is for 5 years. . . so people stay in debt. The overwhelming reason why people trade out of their car so frequently is that they feel scared that they have a car no longer under warranty . . . so dealer’s sell them warranties . . . which hardly ever are worth what they cost and only add to the debt people owe . . . rather than teach people how to make good choices in buying cars and how to car for what they have, dealers just want people to buy cars and treat them as disposable items. . . this model does more damage than it does good.

    eBay has become toothless in helping sellers sell . . . and it’s more and more scams show up there every day. It’s become very costly with far less reward. Not that it is useless yet, but with the growth of new social internet solutions where people can build trust with each other over time, I could see this a far more beneficial route for both buys and sellers. In the end, what people yearn for is a more open and human connection with each other and they want to know that the party they are working with really cares about them and has nothing to hide. . . . at Motorphilia, this is what we are offering.

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    This is also the cross roads where I see us right now, in how do we grow? I must reflect upon how to answer the question .

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  • komalkumari

    This is also the cross roads where I see us right now, in how do we growMtech computers

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