BEYOND VELOCITY: an introduction to the data science behind variable management

Dale Pollak


Founder, vAuto | Executive Vice President, Cox Automotive

Data science offers dealers two gifts for used vehicle inventory management.

The first gift relates to what data science has taught us about the limits of Velocity®, or turn-based inventory management. When you do it really well, you’ll sell more cars but you won’t necessarily make more money.

The second gift relates to what data science tells us about the way dealers should manage used vehicles today. Instead of pricing all vehicles low to sell fast, data science tells us the specific vehicles that are price sensitive and should be priced low to sell fast and those that are less price sensitive and can be priced high and still sell quickly. Data science also gives you specific pricing guidance to get the optimum balance of gross profit and volume with every vehicle.

Perhaps the biggest then / now difference for used vehicle inventory management is that data science gives you what-to-do clarity on every car faster than you could ever know on your own and with a greater degree of emotionless consistency than any one individual can achieve.

This Access: Innovation general session details why it’s time for dealers to go beyond Velocity®-based inventory management to the data science-guided Variable Management strategy.

You’ll learn:

  • Why Velocity® reached its limits in a pre-pandemic market and why it’s no match for today’s more variable and volatile market conditions.
  • How data science informs Variable Management and how it enables ways to classify and treat vehicles to make average decision-makers great and great ones even better.
  • How Variable Management gives you the ability to establish a guiding, net profit-focused strategy to inform every mission-critical used vehicle decision and enable greater accountability and visibility.
  • Why dealers who use the data science behind Variable Management are outperforming their past success and their peers.
  • An inventory stocking strategy that eases the pain of shifting to Variable Management and ensures your ongoing success.

This session serves as your introduction to how the advent of data science is changing used vehicle inventory management for the better and where it can make a critical difference for you.

INSIDE THE BLACK BOX: the evolution of decision-focused data science

Chris Stutsman


Senior Director of Product Innovation, vAuto

When vAuto debuted Velocity® and the market data that enabled it, dealers initially pushed back. In many cases, they didn’t trust the data and they often believed they didn’t need the data to sell their inventories faster.

But the root cause of the distrust wasn’t the data itself. Instead, the distrust came from what the data told dealers about individual cars — that they may have overpaid for a unit or that a vehicle wasn’t as right for their inventory or market as they believed.

Today, the data science behind Variable Management faces a similar, even steeper trust challenge — largely because the data science more directly informs specific used vehicle decisions and actions that run counter to the way dealers are accustomed to thinking about and treating the vehicles they acquire, own and price.

This general session lifts the veil on the data science, giving you an inside look into how it’s been developed and continues to evolve to inform the most optimal decisions for every used vehicle at every turn.

You’ll take away:

  • A better understanding of the data science history that started with a simple question: How can we help dealers know how a specific vehicle will perform as a retail investment before they own it?
  • The critical elements the data science distills to identify each vehicle’s investment potential and inform the optimal appraising and pricing recommendations.
  • How data science adapts and evolves as the market changes to keep recommendations current and valid for each vehicle.
  • How the data science is expanding into other areas of variable operations to help dealers achieve better outcomes storewide.

This session delivers a rare glimpse into the data science team that works behind the scenes to help you address the persistent pain points that can lead to suboptimal outcomes in used vehicles.

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: a forward-focused view of the economy and the car business

Jonathan Smoke


Chief Economist, Cox Automotive

Inflation. Interest rates. Inventory. Affordability. Anxiety. Uncertainty. Volatility. Worry.

Such are the themes that have defined the broader U.S. economy and retail automotive industry in the post-pandemic years. Through much of this year, dealers have ranked the state of the economy and interest rates as the top factors holding back business. Still, there’s room for optimism among dealers given the still-strong profits and relatively stable demand for new and used vehicles.

In this general session, Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Cox Automotive, distills an array of economic and auto market data to offer a key-trends-minded view of the environment that awaits dealers in the months ahead.

He’ll cover:

  • How jobs, unemployment, consumer sentiment and household incomes may impact retail demand in new and used vehicles.
  • Emerging inventory supply, price and valuation trends, and the opportunities / risks they present for dealers.
  • How vehicle affordability challenges for consumers may shift, given interest rates and auto loan credit performance trends.

This fast-paced, highly informative session will provide a clearer understanding of where the wholesale and retail markets are likely to go and the steps you need to take to prepare.

Jonathan Smoke Bio

Jonathan leads Cox Automotive’s economic industry insights team, tracking the economy, new and used vehicle sales, supply, prices, retail and fleet demand, consumer credit and auto financing, and dealer sentiment to understand the key trends impacting both the wholesale and retail markets for vehicles. He uses proprietary data from all of the company’s businesses and platforms, including Manheim, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, vAuto, Xtime and Dealertrack.

For more than 28 years, Jonathan has focused on translating data and trends into relevant, actionable insights for the industries that represent the biggest purchases that consumers make in their lifetimes: real estate and automotive.

Prior to joining Cox Automotive, Jonathan served as’s chief economist. Before that, he was the chief economist for Hanley Wood, a media and market intelligence company, and also served in a variety of roles at Beazer Homes, including senior vice president of strategy and innovation.

Jonathan is an executive member of the board for the Atlanta Economics Club and is a member of the Conference of Business Economists, Harvard Industrial Economists and the National Association for Business Economists. He speaks at major auto industry conferences such as the NADA and NIADA conventions, Automotive News World Congress, and Used Car Week. His views on the economy and the auto industry are featured regularly in industry and national news outlets such as Automotive News, Auto Remarketing, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg and CNBC. Follow him on Twitter @SmokeonCars to keep up with the latest industry insights.

Jonathan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and religious studies from Rhodes College and a master’s degree in business from The University of Texas at Austin.

BUY / SELL: where are blue sky values headed?

Erin Kerrigan


Founder and Managing Director, Kerrigan Advisors

After three incredible back-to-back years of buy / sell activity and record-setting valuations, the big question is: How much longer can this robust transaction marketplace last?

This must-attend general session aims to answer that question. Buy / sell expert Erin Kerrigan will share an overview of buy / sell activity in 2023, a holistic forecast of where she expects it to pace in the year ahead and the factors that will dictate valuations for specific franchise brands.

Kerrigan will also detail four trends that have emerged in the buy / sell market that buyers and sellers would be wise to watch:

  • Why buyers are becoming increasingly selective about the dealerships they’ll acquire and the operational characteristics they prefer to see from sellers.
  • The way blue sky valuations have shifted to forward-looking profit projections from the historical earnings that shaped them in the past.
  • How interest rates and banking turmoil will impact dealership real estate and blue sky values going into 2024.
  • The impact of factory efforts to more aggressively manage their dealer networks on buy / sell activity and valuations.

Whether you’re looking to acquire or sell more stores, this session provides the insights and perspective you’ll need to inform and shape your strategy for the months ahead.

Erin Kerrigan Bio

Kerrigan Advisors is the leading sell-side advisor and thought partner to auto dealers in the U.S. Since its founding, the firm has sold over 175 dealerships, including more of the Top 150 Dealership Groups than any other firm, representing over $3 billion in client sales proceeds. In addition to sell-side advisory services, Kerrigan Advisors raises capital for its clients who are seeking a financial partner and provides consulting services to dealers looking to increase the value of their business.

Prior to founding Kerrigan Advisors, Erin headed Presidio Automotive. Prior to Presidio, she was a Senior Vice President at AutoStar, a subsidiary of iStar Financial (NYSE: SFI), where she led transaction origination. Early in her career, she was dealer operator of her family’s dealership, which she sold in 2006. She began her post-graduate career as an investment banker for Piper Jaffray.

Erin is a recognized industry expert on dealership buy / sells, valuation, real estate and private equity, and is a frequent speaker at leading auto retail events and conferences held by JD Power, NADA (#1 speaker in 2012), American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), National Association of Dealer Counsel (NADC), Canadian Auto Dealers Association and DrivingSales’ President’s Club. She has also been a keynote speaker for events hosted by American Honda Motor Company, Audi of America, Bank of America, the New Car Dealers of Utah, US Trust, multiple state dealer associations, and SunTrust Bank and has also led webinars for NADA and Automotive News. Erin is the author of The Blue Sky Report®, the industry’s leading buy / sell report.

Erin earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her MBA from The UCLA Anderson School of Management. She resides in Incline Village, Nevada, with her husband and partner, Ryan Kerrigan, and their three children. Erin is a member of the Young Presidents Organization and serves on the University of Notre Dame’s Cabinet for Good, Northwestern University’s Council of 100 and the board of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.