AutoNation has been pleased with how DigniFi helps customers in its service drive who might be stretched financially but still need their vehicles repaired.
And evidently, the investment world likes what it sees from the financing platform for auto repairs and services.
On Tuesday, DigniFi announced that it has raised $14 million in Series A funding from Austin-based BuildGroup, the permanent capital company started by Lanham Napier, formerly of RackSpace, and Exor Seeds, the venture arm of Exor N.V., the holding company of the Agnelli family, which is the controlling shareholder of Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, CNHI, PartnerRe and Juventus.
In addition, DigniFi has signed an agreement with Neuberger Berman Private Equity to purchase up to $275 million of assets.
Company leadership said the financing enables DigniFi to grow its network of 5,000 auto service centers to get Americans back on the road at a moment when vehicles are essential.
“After months of financial uncertainty, Americans are eager to get back to work, and many will need their cars in working order to do that. Our network of auto service centers has grown by 500 locations over the last 90 days, spurred by this rising demand,” DigniFi chief executive officer Richard Counihan said in a news release.
“With BuildGroup, Exor, and Neuberger Berman backing us, we have never been in a better position to serve drivers and auto shops,” Counihan continued. “Our platform will stimulate local economies and help America recover strong.”
The platform appears to have stimulated repair orders and other service-drive work at AutoNation stores stemming from what Dave Wilmore, senior vice president of customer care and brand extensions at AutoNation, shared in the news release.
“AutoNation’s priority is keeping customers safe and on the road,” Wilmore said. “Through our partnership with DigniFi, we’ve been able to adapt to customer needs during these times, offering them access to an alternative way to finance their maintenance and repairs.”
For many Americans, vehicle repairs are a source of stress. Prior to COVID-19, AAA conducted a survey and found that 64% of Americans could not pay for an unexpected car repair without taking on debt.
For perspective, the average car repair costs between $500 and $600 according to AAA. Many consumers take on high-interest credit card debt or payday loans to cover unavoidable repairs. Or, they postpone service altogether because they’ve already used up their credit lines on essentials like food and healthcare.
To date, DigniFi’s platform has provided access to over $120 million of financing that covers all five profit centers of a dealership: F&I, sales, parts and accessories, service and collision. The company has gained nationwide traction by offering value to shops, lenders, and consumers.
Partner shops have increased profitability by selling more high gross margin products and services through DigniFi’s platform. Lenders have supported DigniFi because they gain access to a new asset class through automotive retailers and independent repair shops. And consumers benefit because they can access financing in their moment of need.
“DigniFi is a firm that leverages innovative technology to drive performance and creates an exciting opportunity for our investors,” said Zhengyuan Lu, managing director on Neuberger Berman’s Specialty Finance team.
Jim Curry, co-founder and managing partner of BuildGroup, added this perspective.
“During a time when many consumers are under heavy financial stress, DigniFi is helping those faced with costly car repairs gain access to fast and affordable loans,” Curry said. “The company’s mission and the scale at which DigniFi has integrated its offering with service centers and dealerships presented an attractive investment opportunity for BuildGroup and a great addition to our growing portfolio of modern business models.”