Ford Motor Co.'s in-house start-up incubator is introducing a Metro Detroit pilot program that would make it easier for potential buyers to find used vehicles on Ford dealer lots.

The Find Your Ford online platform at currently pulls inventory from six dealerships in the Metro Detroit area into a database that the system's creators Arnold Kadiu and Leda Daehler said makes it easier to find specific makes and models of used Ford vehicles.

"There's a lot of pain points in that experience," Kadiu said. "We realized there's a lot of potential for the move into this space. We're used to buying things on Amazon."

The duo, funded by Ford X, the company's in-house startup business incubator, wants to bring the roughly 100,000 used Ford vehicles currently on U.S. dealer lots onto one website. The move could help Ford capitalize on what analysts and experts expect to be a robust used-vehicle market starting this year as off-lease vehicles return to dealer lots following years of record new-vehicle sales.

Online car shopping isn't a new idea, though. Ford dealerships around the country have websites populated with new and used vehicles. Competitors like Carvana allow people to buy vehicles online.

Cox Automotive data shows a record 4.1 million vehicles will come off-lease in 2019. Many of those will go back onto the market as used vehicles, according to Michelle Krebs, industry analyst with Cox Automotive. In 2017, Cox Automotive found 51 percent of car buyers shopped new and used vehicles.

As new-vehicle prices and interest rates continue to rise, Krebs said she expects the number of used vehicle buyers to increase over the next couple years.

The could be a boon for Find Your Ford. The new Ford website wouldn't undercut dealers. Daehler and Kadiu want to consolidate dealer listings in one place that would give shoppers the chance to narrow national searches to specific features like adaptive cruise control, heated seats or a specific color combination.

The eight-person Find Your Ford team has two customers, the founders said: buyers and dealers. The founders said theirs is the only site that has the window sticker for every used vehicle available online.

Kadiu and Daehler teamed up after their own used-vehicle searches proved difficult. Kadiu, who previously worked on Ford's autonomous and electric vehicle teams before moving to run Find Your Ford full-time, wanted to find a long-bed, crew-cab F-150 with two-wheel drive and adaptive cruise-control when he first started at Ford. It took too long, he said.

Daehler was looking for a used Lincoln MKZ. She said she's picky, and the process wasn't as easy as it could have been.

"Things weren't easy to find and to buy," Daehler said. "We want to make it so that when consumers are looking for a Ford vehicle, they get the best experience."

Consumers are able now to use the Find Your Ford site to find and reserve a used vehicle at six Metro Detroit dealerships. The customer would still have to physically visit the dealership to purchase the vehicle. 

They plan to bring more dealers' inventories into the website this year.

"There's been a lot of push internally to focus on the customer, " Daehler said. "We're really aligned with all of that."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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