In January 2013, Dodge launched the Dart Registry, a crowdfunding platform to help customers request friends and family to sponsor parts of the new car for them. People share their story, set funding goals and recruit support from networks – while generating word of mouth around the Dodge Dart and drawing attention to the car’s parts.
People sign up at the Dart Registry, customize the car they want, set a funding goal accordingly and then ask friends and family to fund individual parts of the car. Each step is designed to connect fundraisers and potential funders with the various parts and features of the Dodge Dart.
Adweek’s Tim Nudd explains the process:
“You sign up for the program, configure and customize a Dodge Dart (choosing from 12 exterior colors, 14 interior color and trim options, three fuel-efficient engines, three transmission choices, safety features, aerodynamics, etc.), and set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise to fund it. The site then itemizes components of the car—like a steering wheel, shifter, seat or engine—and allows friends, family or anyone to sponsor the parts.”
Several thinkers have likened the campaign to a wedding gift registry. AdAge’s Shareen Pathak said:
“Chrysler is trying to redefine a wedding ritual with “The Dodge Dart Registry,” a site that lets engaged couples raise money toward purchasing a new car by asking their friends and family to chip in.”
Blogger Jeffrey Ross said:
“The Dodge Dart Registry allows people to build and customize a new Dart exactly how they want it, then let other people purchase some or all of the components as gifts.”
The Dart Registry is modeled after conventional crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, with elements like progress bars, funding tiers and countdowns.
People can set the fundraising duration as 30, 60 or 90 days, and can customize four funding tiers for acquaintances, friends, family and supporters. The registry then assigns different car parts to the different tiers and prompts potential funders to explore and choose a part to sponsor.
At the end of the fundraising timeline, fundraisers receive all the money raised minus a hefty 9% processing fee. Dodge acknowledges that “it will be tough to raise the full price of a new car,” and gives fundraisers the power to spend their funds towards the car or as they wish:
“Your goal instead can be to raise enough for a down payment, or enough to lower your monthly payments.”
The story or cause behind the fundraising campaign is crucial in recruiting support from friends, family and other benefactors.
Examiner’s Brandon Seiler points out:
“The case itself is the most important part of setting up the profile. Here users write and/or post a video to explain why they deserve help buying a Dart. The more endearing the message the more likely people feel compelled to donate.”
In fact, one of the Dart’s Registry’s largest success stories centers around a registry that was created to crowdfund a car for a cancer patient.
Jody Mostoller, who created the registry with his wife Teri, commented:
“Teri immediately thought about our friend and how creating a registry would be an easy way for people to help her get the new car she so desperately needed. The community rallied behind the idea and it was so much fun to watch it all unfold.”
The powerful story led to a large amount of support from local communities and cancer survivors elsewhere. AutoGuide’s Jason Siu reports:
“More than 260 friends, family, and fellow parishioners contributed to the registry raising over $22,600 in 21 days. As a result, an all-new 2013 Dodge Dart SXT was purchased and everyone from the local community was present when the keys were handed over to their friend.”
Marketers have applauded Dodge’s use of social media and crowdfunding to raise awareness around the car.
Forbes contributor Matthew de Paula noted that the program should help get the Dodge Dart “on the radar of potential buyers”:
“The way the Dodge Dart Registry ties in social media could prove helpful in that regard. As would-be car buyers post updates on their fundraising, they’ll be helping to boost awareness of the compact sedan.”
Forbes’ Joann Muller commented that the program does a better job of raising awareness than driving sales:
“I don’t see a lot of money flowing through this scheme. I will say, however, that it’s an ingenious way for Dodge to draw attention to the Dart, which so far, is being overlooked by many.”
Marketers also believe the Dart Registry will help Dodge reach millennials – a coveted audience for automakers. Millennials are less likely to drive cars compared to previous generations (according to recent report from U.S. PIRG) and have more options for mobility (such as car-sharing and ride-sharing programs, which we outline in our report on collaborative consumption).
TIME’s Brad Tuttle highlighted some additional challenges in reaching this audience:
“The marketing and selling of cars to millennials is a tricky business. This demographic is lukewarm about car ownership, and is more likely to hate the usual car-buying process—haggling especially. If they are interested in automobiles, they tend to be drawn to quirky car models with flashy colors (the Dart qualifies).”
Some thinkers believe that crowdfunding programs like the Dart Registry will help luxury brands reach a new audience of people who cannot afford their products.
Here’s a comment posted on car blog Jalponik:
“This isn’t so much a campaign to sell the cars, more of a campaign to help people afford them. Everybody would be driving a new car if they could easily afford one. This is a novel marketing campaign that attempts to get people who otherwise would not be able to afford ANY new car, to be able to afford one.”
Hyundai partnered with niche crowdfunding platform Motozuma in 2011 to help people crowdfund cars and has reportedly sold 1,600 units. In comparison, the Dart Registry has reportedly sold only 2 units since January 2013.
Brand Channel’s Dale Buss attributes Hyundai’s success to a matching contributions scheme and wider range of eligible cars:
“Hyundai may have gained an edge in the auto industry’s early crowdsourcing initiatives by matching contributions on Motozuma dollar for dollar, up to $500, as consumers try to round up contributions from friends and family for a down payment on a new car. It may also help that Hyundai doesn’t focus on a particular nameplate in the promotion.”
Blogger Charles Luzar believes that this approach has potential to play a bigger role in reaching millennials in the future:
“Although the reach is limited for now, the approach could pay dividends in the long run as car manufacturers struggle to gain traction with Millennial car buyers.”
Non-automotive brands too are exploring crowdfunding solutions with matching contributions to make their products more affordable. For instance, Microsoft recently launched a dedicated branded platform Chip In to help people crowdfund Windows PCs.
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