RICHMOND, Va. — Officials with CarMax Auto Finance, a subsidiary of CarMax Inc., said a focus on its online prequalification portal drove a 7% gain in first-quarter originations from a year ago.

The portal has been live at all CarMax locations for two full quarters. Officials said the next step is to offer customers home delivery, although they said the service will stop short of a complete online buying experience.

"Customers are engaging well with this offering and it continues to contribute to increased online leads, which we believe ultimately generate incremental sales," said President and CEO Bill Nash during the company’s June 21 earnings call to discuss first-quarter performance. “Now we’re focused on improving the experience and proactively marketing our online financing capability nationwide.”

The auto finance company recorded $1.5 billion in first-quarter originations, up from $1.4 billion in the year-ago quarter. The firm did not disclose a total origination count or total outstanding balances.

According to officials, state regulations prevent the automotive retailer from allowing consumers to complete vehicle transactions online. The used-vehicle retailer will instead deliver vehicles to a customer’s home for test-drives. If the customer agrees to purchase after testing the vehicle, the associate accompanying the vehicle will be trained to help the consumer complete the deal paperwork.

Officials also said the pre-owned dealer group is testing an online appraisal tool in its Charlotte, N.C., market. It is designed to allow customers to submit condition reports on their trade-in online to receive an appraisal value. Nash said the company plans to expand that pilot to two more Charlotte stores.

"We continue our home delivery test and one key learning we found is that human intervention at the right time is important to giving our customers the personalized experience they expect," Nash said. "Our goal with this test is to build the functionality needed to fully integrate our online and in-store experiences that we can offer as much or as little the car buying process online as each customer wants."

Originally posted on F&I and Showroom