Blinker [verb] /bling-ker/
To buy or sell a (used) car
Buying (or selling) a used car sucks. The dealership experience has been lousy forever, and doing it yourself online can feel confusing and sketchy. Here to the rescue, Blinker has created a mobile app that makes your used vehicle transaction as painless as calling an Uber or booking an Airbnb. After helping sell thousands of cars in Colorado, the Denver-based startup is expanding to some of the biggest driving markets in the country. In the race to disrupt auto sales, Blinker is pitted against a field of hyper-growth stage companies backed by hundreds of millions in venture investment. However, behind superior technology and a dynamic business model, run by a leadership team with combined decades of dealership experience, Blinker is pulling out to win.
Consider the used car salesman. You’re familiar with the stereotype. A slick operator in an ugly sport coat. The paradigm draws from decades of pop culture parody. From Clark Griswold getting swindled into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (a damn fine automobile); to the showdown at Ashley Schaeffer BMW (woo). If you’re native to the Denver Metro Area, perhaps you remember one in particular. You know the one from those commercials, who’ll say and wear whatever it takes, to convince you that nobody beats his deals, nobody.
Consider the tech startup founder. A stereotype still in the making. Asked some years ago, maybe you’d think fondly of Steve Jobs. A larger-than-life genius, just crazy enough to change the world. Today you might think different. You may be among the many suffering Silicon Valley fatigue, weary of overhyped technology, shady business practices and the looming promise of “disruption,” whether we want it or not. Once idolized as bold trailblazers, they too have befallen the butt of jokes.
The used car salesman and the tech startup founder. Rod Buscher is at once both and neither — a builder of business and breaker of stereotypes. As a car dealer, Rod was an innovator. Now as a tech CEO, he remains a car guy.
Over 30-odd-years in the industry, he founded some of the biggest dealerships in Colorado, and launched a national franchise with 32 locations and 1,000 employees. In 2013 he set out on something new, trading brick-and-mortar retail for consumer tech. At the time it was just an idea, but one he thought had Airbnb or Uber-size potential. “An asset-light business to serve all car owners.”
Three years and 16 patents later, that idea is now a rapidly scaling peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used cars. For both parties, Rod’s technology has streamlined the otherwise painful process into a seamless mobile app experience. Pricing, listing, browsing, ID verification, fraud inspection, credit checks, test drives, title transfer, signatures, financing and more — all done at the swipe of a finger.
The app is designed and built right here in Denver, by Blinker. Since rolling out to users in Colorado this time last year, Blinker has listed as many statewide sales as Cars.com, a $2-billion company that advertises during the damn Super Bowl. As of July they’ve expanded to Texas, and are planning to go live in Florida and California by year’s end. Strategic moves into the three biggest driving states, where they’ll address 30 percent of the national used car market.
However, despite the early traction, to become the Uber or Airbnb for car ownership, Rod and company have a long road ahead. First, no matter how hard car dealerships suck, Blinker is looking to displace a century-old consumer behavior. Second, even if the $500 billion US used car industry is ripe for disruption, Blinker is only one of many barbarians at the gate.
In fact, there are several well-funded startups committed to revolutionizing used car sales, some of whom have already expanded nationally. Further up the food chain, national dealership groups and global car manufacturers are fighting back, adapting their own digital solutions for improving the customer experience. Somewhere in between, an aging class of dot-com era holdovers, including eBay Motors, CarMax, and Craigslist, desperately scrap to maintain diminished market share in used car e-commerce.
Amidst the chaos, Blinker emerges at a position of strength, powered by three differentiating factors: (1) a frictionless user experience (2) facilitating end-to-end car ownership transactions (3) on a peer-to-peer basis. Installing these driving components of the foremost industry disruptors, Uber and Airbnb, Blinker has calibrated a consumer technology and business model capable of achieving scale beyond any of their peers.
A recent timeline of the shifting landscape reveals the competition’s relative weaknesses, and Blinker’s golden opportunity to capitalize.
Rod reflects on his many years building car dealerships as a rollercoaster ride — high highs, and low lows. Certainly the startup world has its own ups-and-downs, and recent events would suggest the online used car market to be especially volatile. In the last three years, backers have invested a combined $860 million into Blinker’s four primary competitors. In just the last nine months, one of them has gone public, while another ceased operations and sold for parts.
Beepi, the latter and less fortunate of the two, had hauled $150 million in VC funding before ultimately folding late last year. By its latest financing round, the company had cultivated a nationwide distribution network and was valued at $560 million. That aggressive push to expand service coverage and chase higher valuations may have hastened their demise, many have speculated. According to one ex-employee, Beepi was burning through $7 million a month at its peak, which in addition to mission-critical ops costs included frivilous spending on executive salaries and office amenities. In December 2016, the company’s remaining assets were sold to pay off creditors, and 200 employees were laid off.
Undeterred by their closest competitor’s untimely end, just a few short months later in April 2017, Carvana became the first of this next generation to IPO. Fueled by $460 million in private backing at a $2 billion-valuation, Carvana opened at $18/share. By closing bell that very first day, they were trading at $11.
While the stock has recovered in recent months, Wall Street analysts are skeptical the self-billed “Amazon of Cars” has the cost structure to support the weight of expectations. Doubling year-over-year revenues notwithstanding, Carvana posts razor thin margins to its capital-intensive balance sheet. Not only does the Phoenix-based company keep its 7,000-plus car inventory on the books, but it dispenses them via “car vending machines,” five-story glass garages currently coin-operational in four cities across Texas and Tennessee.
Yet as the dust settles from Carvana’s IPO woes and Beepi’s sell-off, venture capitalists remain long on the category. In July 2017, Vroom and Shift announced their Series F and Series C rounds respectively. Capping off a busy summer in which former Priceline head Paul Hennessy joined as CEO, Vroom added $76 million to its $295 million funding total with this latest raise. Though they’ve shipped 250,000 cars to customers in 50 states, exceeding $1 billion annual revenue, Vroom must also mitigate massive operating costs on its path to profitability. Not unlike Carvana, Vroom maintains a centralized vehicle inventory from its midtown NYC HQ. All cars pass through its 122-acre reconditioning center outside Houston, undergoing state-of-the-art service and rigorous quality control, before shipping out to buyers on Vroom-branded see-through trailers.
Meanwhile, whereas Vroom and Carvana are content to pile on the capex, Shift Technologies of San Francisco has grown more deliberately. With its $112 million capital war-chest, Shift has focused on controlling market share on its home turf, operating exclusively across the Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles. In an email to investors, CEO George Arison imparted that he saw Beepi’s breakdown coming a mile away, and that Shift will expand more cautiously and quietly. Still he clarified, Shift is growing faster and has 10 percent better profit margins than Carvana. Though regardless of his austere leadership, Arison hasn’t been immune to the ups and downs of the car business, having laid off 10 percent of his staff and “paused” operations in Washington D.C. this past January.
Flawed as they are, Carvana, Vroom and Shift have each made tremendous gains toward disrupting used car sales. Evidently they’re particularly adept at playing the capital markets, in stark contrast to Blinker which is self-funded by Rod and two partners. However, while their tech-veteran CEOs have successfully made the rounds on Sand Hill Road, the car guy from Colorado may have quietly beat them at their own game. In an industry where superior technology wins the day, Blinker has the pole position.
Rod wants “Blinker” to become a verb. It’s a precarious thing for a CEO to want for his brand. The stock historical precedent is Xerox, which for decades has urged consumers to use the generic parlance, “photo copy.” The fear being, that blurring the lines between the thing the company makes with the act of consuming it, would in effect erode the brand’s competitive differentiation. Trademark lawyers have a term for this: “genericide.” It’s a big part of why trademark lawyers exist.
To this day, arguably the most widely spoken brand-verb staunchly resists the conjugation. The current edition Google brand handbook insists on using the name exclusively as an adjective describing a specific product — Maps, Calendar, AdWords, etc. Ironically, Google’s vanquished search engine adversary is among the few notable examples of a company publicly advocating for customers to use its brand as a verb. And when was the last time you “Binged” something?
Nonetheless, no matter how many millions he makes or markets he launches, Rod will not have satisfaction until he overhears that someone “Blinkered” her car in casual conversation. No, he’s not foolishly overlooking risk of genericide. Instead the goal speaks to the utility of technology Blinker has created. The Economist linguist column, “Johnson,” decrees the first rule of “brand verbing,” that it must refer to a distinct and easily performed action. Rod understands that to supplant the traditional dealership model of used car transaction, the alternative experience must possess those special qualities so as to justify the customer’s economic cost of switching.
In other words, the challenge of disruption isn’t simply creating a marginally better way. It’s creating an entirely new way that’s exceptionally better. Case in point, before Xerox machines, secretaries spent hours-upon-hours carbon copying, or worse type-transcribing important memos. Just as the photocopier replaced all that busy work with the touch of the button, the Blinker app compresses the hours you would spend at the dealership — talking to car salesman, filling out paperwork, applying for financing — into mere minutes.
For sellers, it starts with a photo. Stand six feet away from your vehicle, align the camera phone feature on the Blinker app with your taillights, and snap a pic. In three seconds, Blinker gives you all the information you need to sell your car — make, model, year, equipment, value, approximate miles and more. From there, after the app verifies your ID, you set the price and post to the marketplace. For buyers, the experience is evenly seamless. No documents, bank statements, credit reports. Submit a photo of your driver’s license and Blinker takes care of the rest.
Give or take 270 million cars in America. Blinker knows all of them. The software uses a machine learning library called TensorFlow. Along with the Google Vision API, your mobile phone photo is cross-referenced through a system of 70,000 car images trained by Blinker’s AI experts. The algorithm then deciphers the distance between taillights, manufacturer logo, license plate number and other inputs to compute results. Rod recalls that the technology took an “unusually long time” to refine. Three years of developer iterations, and a year of focus groups. From the outset they weren’t sure it was even possible.
The blood, sweat and grease were well worth it. Technology is Blinker’s key differentiator. The “secret sauce,” so to speak. And not because having a Shazam for cars is cool, though I suppose it is. Because the image recognition capability removes frictions from the transaction process. The technology saves you from having to dig up years-old paperwork, drive to that lot in the dodgy part of town and settle for a bum deal. Like how the Xerox machine saved all those poor secretaries from typing-induced carpal tunnel.
The frictionless customer experience is a cornerstone of the contemporary digital marketplace. Why do you “uber” to the bar rather than just call a cab? Uber disrupted the taxi industry, and became vernacular in the process, by removing frictions from the ride hailing experience. Dialing the seven sevens, waiting who knows how long for pick-up, getting lost on the way to the destination, fumbling with the card reader, tipping (gasp)! These seemingly minor annoyances are all points of friction. Companies like Uber, Venmo, Seamless and now Blinker have upended the status quo through eliminating friction from their transactions.
From a competitive standpoint, with regards to frictionless consumer experience, Blinker stands apart. For buyers, while Carvana, Vroom and Shift all have spiffy UX interfaces within their digital showrooms, they’re each providing an experience that’s very much Web 1.0 e-commerce. Carvana provides a 360-degree virtual tour of all the cars in its inventory, and even though it looks nice on your device, it’s not particularly utilitarian. At the end of the day, on all these sites, you’re browsing for cars the same way you would online shop for khaki pants.
For sellers, the transaction is perhaps less tedious than trading through the dealership, but still wrought with familiar frictions. VIN number, license plate, trim level, outstanding loan status, car condition, most recent tire replacements, exact mileage, etc. — with the competition, these are all data points sellers are required to collect themselves and enter manually. With Blinker, that information is magically determined for you in seconds. This may not seem like a big deal now, but at the time neither did giving your cabbie directions, handing your friend a $10-bill for the movie ticket, or getting the phone number off the Chinese food menu on the fridge.
Point being, auto sales has always been and will continue to be a highly competitive, low margin business. Anything dealers can say or do to gain even the slightest edge can make the difference between living and dying (refer back to Doug, Dealin’). If Blinker can message persuasively around their technological differentiation, while maintaining the competitive advantage through patent protection, well then you might just hear their name come up in conversation.
Your house and your car. Probably the two biggest life purchases you’ll make (unless you buy a boat!). At the very least, you’ll remember the first time you bought one.
Once you’re finally through researching, browsing, negotiating and closing, big life purchases beget other smaller purchases. Furniture, snow tires and so on. The advantage of e-commerce, is that theoretically you could provide a single marketplace destination for all the work that goes into the big purchase, and making all the smaller purchases that come after. But that’s easier said than done.
From search, to transaction, to financing. Blinker handles every facet of the transaction, end-to-end. If you want to take a test drive, which by-the-way is impossible with Carvana and Vroom, Blinker users coordinate a safe location with the seller through the app. Buyer’s ready to make an offer? Tap of a button. Seller wants to negotiate? Simply counter with an in-app text. Ready to sign on the dotted line? Title-transfer and documents are e-signed on your phone. Time to get paid? The full purchase price is deposited in the seller’s account the next day.
Need a loan? Blinker makes those too. This part is really important. Since there’s no fees for using the app, lending is how Blinker makes its money. Loans are underwritten at competitive rates between 5 and 18 percent for 60 month terms. For now, Blinker keeps that liability on its books. Down the road, Rod plans to bundle the notes and sell them as securities, for which there is considerable appetite among banks, PE firms, insurance companies and other institutional investors.
So while their competency is the intersection of cars and consumer tech, Blinker is at its core a financial services company. There’s nothing especially sexy about auto finance, except that car loan balances sum to $1.06 trillion in the US, where 86 percent of new cars and 53 percent of used cars are financed. Accounting for 25 percent of consumer debt, car loans perform outstandingly well in terms of default risk. After all, borrowers need a way to get to work so they can pay off the rest of their debt. Lenders include biggest names in banking, cars and now tech. New to the mix is Uber, which just received a $1 billion credit facility from Goldman Sachs to fund new car leases.
Of the big three online used car sellers, Carvana, which originally spun off of DriveTime Automotive, the biggest used car credit company in the country, is the only other to offer proprietary financing to its buyers. Vroom and Shift have relationships with financial institutions, which presumably nets them a referral percentage. Blinker gets the total accrued interest.
In exchange, Blinker users who finance their purchases enjoy the same frictionless experience throughout the underwriting process. Compared with hours at the dealership, or driving back-and-forth between the seller and the bank, loan application takes 30 minutes on the app. All it takes is a photo of your driver’s license, a few finger swipes and if you have any questions, a quick chat with Blinker’s on-staff loan specialist. Blinker also offers refinancing, powered by the same image recognition software. Approval takes less than a minute, and the average customer saves $100 on their new deal.
Financing is the primary revenue engine at present, but Blinker has designs to expand the end-to-end car buying experience even further. Coming soon, users will have in-app access to auto insurance companies, car service providers and parts retailers. Rod’s vision: one-stop shopping for all your automotive ownership needs.
Here Blinker is again applying lessons from the likes of Uber and Airbnb, which are constantly integrating beyond car sharing and couch surfing to take on tangential industries. From humble beginnings as one of Uber’s many fringe market experiments, the UberEats food delivery app now accounts for 8–10 percent of the company’s gross bookings, and is on track to pull $3 billion in sales across 108 cities in 29 countries. Launched last year, Airbnb Trips offers curated excursions to travelers, guided by freelance hosts. Founder and CEO Brian Chesky believes it’s the future of his company.
Just as Uber and Airbnb work toward a future as holistic “mobility” or “hospitality” companies, Blinker must function as a car ownership platform and aggressively push into new verticals. Not only to identify untapped revenue streams, but also to create a fully self-sustaining peer-to-peer marketplace.
Uber and Airbnb are worth a combined $100 billion. The frictionless user experience laid their path to widespread adoption, and end-to-end functionality marks their way forward as the next generation multi-national conglomerates. However, these pillars of their past and future success, which fundamentally break down to operational efficiency and horizontal integration, are old world business concepts modified for the digital age. What makes these companies truly of this moment in time, and the two highest valued venture-backed startups in American history, is the peer-to-peer model.
Here’s author Walter Isaacson in the New York Times on “How Uber and Airbnb Became Poster Children for the Disruption Economy,” to better articulate what I mean:
“What companies such as Airbnb and Uber have done in the past decade is take the peer-to-peer sharing of digital content that flourished online, through sites like Napster and YouTube and Facebook, and apply it to our physical world, including cars and rooms and scores of other goods, tasks and services.”
Through empowering consumers to share services with one another, Uber and Airbnb have circumvented the traditional gatekeepers in their industries, and created an entirely new economy. In Blinker’s case, those gatekeepers are car dealers, who we’ve established have an image problem, maybe even more so than taxi drivers or hotel proprietors. And not only are its sharing economy precursors paving Blinker’s road forward, but peer-to-peer car selling is already a thriving marketplace unto itself. One that’s badly in need of infrastructure.
Recall that used car sales is a $500 billion industry in the US annually. Of those transactions, $100 billion-worth are made on a peer-to-peer basis, which is to say outside of the dealership. However, while there’s clearly an eagerness among used car buyers and sellers to make deals on their own terms, according to Andrew Price, VP of Marketing and Creative at Blinker, the existing services accessible to those private parties are prohibitively fragmented. “If you’re going to go down that path, you have to put it all together yourself,” said Price. “There’s places where you can certainly list your car online, there’s places that you can find lending, but there’s nothing that really combines this all together, so that it’s really simple, easy and safe to do the whole thing on your own.”
The safety piece is key. Amid seemingly evergreen news reports of rides-gone-wrong and trashed rental homes, Uber and Airbnb have responded to ongoing criticism that they don’t do enough to ensure the security of their customers. Blinker on the other hand can reasonably claim to have enhanced the safety of peer-to-peer automotive sales, which many approach with apprehension. As Rod explains, “not everyone is comfortable meeting on Craigslist and carrying a bundle of cash.” Not only does Blinker remove cash from the equation, but it verifies the IDs of the buyer and seller, who agree on a safe public meeting space for test drives and transactions. It also goes without saying, but all personal data entered within the app is encrypted.
Beyond safety and simplicity lies savings. The most economically appealing feature of the peer-to-peer sale, is that by recovering the dealership margin, both parties save money. On average, Blinker sellers have taken home an additional $2,500 than what they would have on trade, while buyers have paid $1,500 less. With a $12,500 average vehicle price, the two sides are splitting 30 percent of the value, which would have otherwise gone to the dealer.
But the savings don’t stop with the customer. Where Carvana and Vroom burn millions on cars to sell, not to mention multi-story vending machines and mobile showrooms to distribute them, Blinker remains asset-light. Think back to Airbnb, considered one of the biggest hotel companies in the world without owning a single hotel room. Or Uber, a global car service that doesn’t employ a single professional driver or own any cabs. By eschewing a centralized inventory, and the highly complex and costly fulfillment framework to support it, Blinker has developed a business model in the mold of Uber and Airbnb, with significantly greater capacity for scale.
Hence we’ve arrived at the essence of Blinker’s advantage. In spite of all the saber rattling, Carvana and Vroom are essentially emulating the dealership model they boast of disrupting. Swapping the car salesman’s sport coat for the tech bro’s hoody. Shift more closely resembles the Blinker peer-to-peer structure, though there are several disqualifying differences. Shift doesn’t purchase the cars on their platform, which technically change hands directly from buyer to seller, but its fingerprints are all over the transaction. Before you can list your car, Shift picks it up for inspection, photographing and cleaning. They do offer test drives, but as a seller you’re not welcome along for the ride. Instead your car is again whisked away for showcasing by one of their on-staff “Car Enthusiasts,” whom they assure you are NOT car salesman. If an offer goes through, Shift sets the price. You don’t get a say.
What Shift has done has taken the skeleton frame of the peer-to-peer model and reinstalled their own middlemen, thus creating unnecessary frictions and voiding the independent spirit of the whole enterprise. Rod calls them “gatekeepers,” and understands that they’re precisely the reason that third-party buyers and sellers have rejected the dealership experience en masse. It strips them of their agency as car owners. In an American car culture that celebrates freedom and self-determination, Blinker exists to give control back to whom it belongs.
The Road Ahead
Though by his own admission he’s a natural salesman, Rod credits his dealership career success in large part to marketing, to which he was always drawn.
As a marketer, he masterfully embraced the one thing God and every Coloradan can get behind — the Denver Broncos. Way back in 1987, Rod poured every dime he had into opening his first Denver dealership. That fall, when all-pro running back Tony Dorsett signed to Denver as a free agent, Rod was there to pick him up at the airport. Though he only played one season for the Broncos, the future Hall-of-Famer made a hell of a spokesman for Rod. So much so, that for his next venture he approached team owner Pat Bowlen, who brought in a big-name third partner. Starting with one store, in seven years the John Elway Dealerships exploded into the largest car retailer in the state.
Going forward as Blinker expands into new markets, Rod’s decades of car business marketing experience should come in handy. For while the peer-to-peer model may possess more scale potential, since Blinker doesn’t control its inventory, it has the daunting task of simultaneously growing supply and demand. Uber and Airbnb passed this test through constant innovation in marketing, deploying aggressive and often controversial strategies for generating brand awareness and driving user conversions.
In the early days as a fledgling startup, Airbnb cleared one of its first existential hurdles with a simple but brilliant growth hack. The company was struggling to convert posters from Craigslist, which at the time was considerably more popular. After a failed attempt to spam Craigslist user emails with unsolicited messages, which ignited major blowback, Airbnb altered course completely. Instead of baiting users away from Craigslist, Airbnb coded an integration allowing users to repost their listings to Craigslist, which prospective hosts were told could increase earnings by $500 per month on average. Not only did this enable them to create more aesthetically appealing Craigslist posts through Airbnb’s platform, but it surreptitiously planted compelling ads behind the enemy lines of its biggest competitor.
Not surprisingly, Blinker has already astutely applied this lesson in its own product marketing. Blinker posts are automatically advertised to competitive marketplaces, including Craigslist, Cars.com, CarGuru and others. Sellers are also encouraged to repost their listing via their own social networks.
For its initial driver outreach efforts, Uber relied heavily on paid social advertising, strategically targeting population segments for increased likelihood of adoption. With its crack team of operations analysts and data scientists, Uber created a model to identify motivating factors for signing up to drive, singling out part-time workers or known car owners, predominantly in cities with low wages or high unemployment.
With the Texas rollout, Blinker has publicly discussed plans to lean on Facebook and other social media in major markets. To make the most productive use of those dollars, Blinker can instruct its own data science pros to build similar models for identifying triggers in the car buyer or seller journey. Data points one might pursue to profile potential users could include:
- Recent or upcoming trans-continental moves (to or from a driving city)
- Family considerations (new baby, kids off to college)
- Changes in employment status (new job, raise)
- Car milestones (ending leases or warranties)
- Routine upgrade intervals (2–3 years)
While Blinker has and will continue to heed the digital marketing best practices blueprinted by Uber and Airbnb, Rod should by no means abandon his intuition for what’s worked in the past. In Colorado, Blinker made a lucrative broadcast advertising push coinciding with the app launch. Similar television spots are planned for Texas, where Rod is also considering a marketing partnership with one of the state’s most beloved sports teams (hopefully not the Cowboys).
Nobody wants to get disrupted. Barraged with almost daily headlines touting new technologies and millions invested, legacy car people are understandably salty. To them, the tech buzzwords ring hollow as dull threats and empty promises. And given that online transactions account for less than 10 percent of car sales, and that many of these highly-valued ventures have yet to achieve profitability, who’s to say these industry outsiders aren’t just full of shit.
“There’s been a mad rush in the last couple of years to create these online-transaction-based apps or solutions to let customers bypass the dealer,” said Cliff Banks, president of the Banks Report, an automotive industry trade blog. “We’re seeing a crowded market and investors seem willing to throw money at them with little understanding about the automotive space and what it takes to sell cars.”
Banks’ criticism may hold water when applied to Blinker’s competitors, which call straight from the Silicon Valley disruptor playbook. But remember Rod is a car guy. Two Iraq wars, 20 percent interest rates in the Carter days, gas lines when he was selling Lincolns, the 2008 meltdown. Through them all, “challenges of the uncontrollable,” Rod had what it took to persevere and sell cars.
Let’s travel back in time to 1992. The car business is rough and tumble, as customer satisfaction plummets to new depths. Rod envisions a path forward through innovation, and suggests a new strategy. Introduce a money-back guarantee. One of if not the first car dealers to do so. People think he’s crazy. Rod does it anyway. He bets if we do a great job delivering that car, they’re not going to bring it back. Less returns equal more sales. He was right of course. Money-back guarantees are now an industry standard.
That level of ingenuity is undoubtedly special, but Rod’s leadership is why it matters. Throughout his career, he’s achieved success through surrounding himself with great people. When times get tough, they band together, responding to the example he sets. Old-fashioned, head-down, belt-tightened, sleeves-rolled work ethic.
Today, Rod and the great people at Blinker have an opportunity. To democratize the dealership toolkit, and help ordinary folks save money on their cars. If they succeed, they’ll redefine the future of American vehicle ownership. Not bad for a few car guys. And girls.