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App puts new spin on car leasing

November 26, 2017 GMT

Following a frustrating experience with trying to lease a car two years ago, technology entrepreneur Nathan Hecht decided his next venture would provide a solution.

“It was a less-than-pleasant experience,” he said of visiting Long Island dealerships to research car-leasing options. “It was really hard to squeeze a payment out of the salesman, and I was asking, ‘Why can’t I do this online?’ ”

Despite being in the middle of working on another startup called Dstrux Inc. at the time, Hecht immediately called his tech team based in Israel and said they were going to build a car-leasing app.

“It sounds cliche, but I went home and called them and said, ‘Drop everything,’ ” Hecht said in a recent interview.

In less than a year, the resulting app named Honcker has grown to include inventories from more than 300 dealerships, which includes some located in southern Connecticut including in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Danbury and several in the Bridgeport area. The company is undergoing a large expansion in the state, Hecht said.

A few weeks ago, the Brooklyn-based company announced raising $3.6 million in a seed-funding round led by Evolution Corporate Advisors. By the end of the year, Hecht anticipates there will be at least 500 dealerships listing their inventories on Honcker.

Kia of Stamford has leased almost 20 cars with Honcker since it signed up with the app six months ago, according to dealership sales manager Ernesto DePiano.

“I’m pretty much in love with the app,” he said. “It’s probably the easiest way to lease a car. I wish I would have come up with the idea. I’ve never seen so many customers who are really happy and leaving positive reviews.”

Leasing accounts for much of his dealership’s business, DePiano said, so he’s always looking for new resources to boost sales. He stumbled upon Honcker while searching online for new leasing tools six months ago and liked how the app worked after he downloaded it and signed up as if he were a customer.

“It’s laid out simply and is transparent,” he said. “It makes it easy for customers to buy, which makes it easy for us to sell.”

Afterward, he reached out to Hecht, who sent a Honcker representative to the Stamford dealership the next day, said DePiano, adding he’s not aware of any apps similar to Honcker.

For customers looking to lease, Honcker allows them to scroll through car options along with their lease prices. If they find something they like, Hecht said it takes just a few swipes to close the deal and, depending on customers’ location, many dealerships will deliver a car and contract the following day.

A year since launching Android and iOS versions of the app, one of Honcker’s biggest hurdles to growth is keeping up with inquiries from interested dealerships, Hecht said.

“As a startup, I have to make scaling decisions as we move forward,” Hecht said. “We’re in the middle of expanding our geographic footprint and will be releasing new versions of the app next week that offers capabilities like co-signing and rolling existing lease payments into a new one: with one button on Honcker, you will be able to get out of your last car and into a new one.”

Since Kia of Stamford joined Honcker’s platform earlier this year, DePiano has noticed more dealerships in the area following suit, he said, adding he believes it will drive the future of car leasing.

“You have to get with the way people are buying,” he said. “So we want to stay with the tech and roll with it. I want to be a part of (Honcker’s) growth.”

Local dealerships leasing cars through Honcker include: Greenwich Infiniti, Greenwich Lexus, Kia of Stamford, Subaru Stamford, Perkins Honda of Westport, Curry Mercedes-Benz Of Danbury, Curry Toyota in Watertown, Perkins Subaru of Milton, Pepe Cadillac and Pepe Infiniti.

Contact the writer at mbennett@greenwichtime.com; Twitter @Macaela_