With the finalised acquisition of Belgium-based digital automotive retail vendor, MotorK debuts in the Benelux automotive market. We asked the CEO of Carflow, Frederic Apers, to comment and give us an overview of this brand-new market for MotorK.
A relatively small geographical area featuring different governments and administrative setups, three languages and a diverse cultural approach: in a nutshell, this is why entering the Benelux market can be quite challenging and, at the same time, the perfect opportunity for international companies to test their scale-up capabilities. In Frederic Apers’s words, “If you can scale up in Benelux, it means you’re well equipped to scale up globally”.
Benelux stands for the combined markets of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. As much as there are similarities, there is no one-size-fits-all commercial approach that can be applied.
The fiscal complexity in the automotive sector can be an additional issue. As a matter of fact, most Dutch vehicles are subject to a domestic tax called BPM, which is related to CO2 emissions and impacts the net catalogue price, therefore creating a significant barrier for cross-border sales. This is one of the reasons why in the Netherlands the market is led by independent dealers making most of their sales with used cars, whereas in Belgium and Luxembourg sales of new cars represent a much bigger source of revenue.
In terms of digital maturity, the Benelux market is on a digitalisation journey but due to the high concentration of dealerships on the territory, the physical showroom still represents the focal point of any sales and marketing activities. According to Apers’s analysys, though, “a wave of consolidation is under way, meaning that smaller dealerships will either disappear or have to re-focus their business”.
“With strong local economies and a solid network of dealers already in place, Benelux is the perfect market for high-growth companies like MotorK, aiming to create a European ecosystem of digital automotive retail”, added Apers. “As an entrepreneur, I recognised that we had the know-how but lacked the size and resources to be that kind of European player. We needed to transition from being a vendor of digital services to being an enabler of a growing range of mobility solutions and integration is crucial at this stage. Being part of the MotorK family means that Carflow people can now have the resources and tools to look ahead and be able to effectively respond to the new needs of automotive clients”.
“We’re adamant that Carflow’s current customer base understands the benefits of being part of the MotorK family. They now have a ticket for a ride to the future and in the short term we will focus on introducing the MotorK brand to them”, said Frederic Apers.
The adoption of the SparK platform will enable customers in the Benelux area to unlock a competitive advantage and support car buyers across multiple touchpoints in a seamless way. “I believe that this will have a magnetic effect on the rest of the market, leading to the growth of the entire sector”, added Apers.
Instrumental to such growth is a mindset shift from focusing on selling cars online to developing a digital strategy that can accelerate the current business model, where technology is not the end goal but a means to support customers along their purchase journey. “To quote Steve Jobs, ‘You have to start with the customer and then work backwards to the technology’. As of now, online sales only represent a surplus for the majority of dealers. Car sales will continue to be a multi-channel activity for quite some time, in my opinion”, commented Apers. “Meanwhile, we must work to make our IT infrastructure future-proof”.
MotorK and Carflow are both committed to being at the forefront of the organisational change that is needed in the automotive industry, helping dealers adopt a startup mentality and rethink their business with a digital-first user in mind. “This is possibly one of hardest challenges, since it requires being brave enough to abandon a model that has worked well until now and start building the future organisation with the licence to try and fail, in order to ultimately succeed”.
Born in 1976 in Antwerp, Belgium, Frederic Apers founded Carflow in 2009. He’s also the founder of other digital ventures and service companies with an international scope.