Q&A with Richard Kilshaw - The Founder of ShrewdLease.com
Hello Richard, can we start with a little background on your experience in the auto industry? Where have you worked and what did you do?
Well, I have worked predominantly in the Automobile industry for the past 25 years from many different angles. Retail sales, commercial leasing, Finance and Insurance through to Automotive Design and Project Management. My very first job was in one of the largest London Nissan dealerships. Fresh out of college, the car trade had an allure that any young person could easily be drawn to. Having the opportunity to drive many new cars was a plus.
So you have been familiar with leasing for some time?
Indeed, I was a huge advocate of consumer leasing when introduced to London in the 80’s. The rules were a little different in the UK, but the overall concept was the same. People could afford to drive a much nicer car when they pay just for it’s use, over buying outright.
How did you go from car sales in London to Development Engineer in Portland, Oregon?
I studied Design at college and I ultimately gravitated back to that field. After a few years in Automotive design and development in the UK, an opportunity to assist Freightliner with aluminum stamping design for their cabs was put on the table and I jumped at the chance. I have not looked back. The US really is the land of opportunity and it is a wonderful place to live.
What were the main differences you noticed between US and UK auto industries?
Well, my first forays into US dealerships in the late 90’s left me amazed that dealers could legally mark up a car above MSRP! I was equally surprised to learn that Federal law bans the use of annual percentage rates in US lease disclosures. Interest rates are an important part of any financial borrowing transaction and to have them specifically banned from disclosure was quite an eye-opener.
So what was the inspiration for developing the site?
Since my early career days working in retail and fleet sales, I had been aware of a fundamental problem with closed end auto leases. That it was always extremely difficult to compare the competitiveness of lease offers across multiple manufacturers and numerous models. Folks are bombarded with all sorts of monthly payments, capital cost reductions, varying lease lengths, numerous mileage allowances and differing residual values. Add to this, the regulation that any interest rate making up the rent charge on a lease is not even disclosed, It quickly becomes very difficult for a consumer to really know if they made the soundest financial decision when driving around in that new car. I hear people all the time.... “Nice car, how much?..”Oh I leased it for $250 a month. And their friend replies “That seems like a good deal!” And the real truth is, they really don’t know.
So you wanted to fix that?
Exactly. I had mulled the problem for years. After many nights of research, analysis and study I gradually reduced the problem and eventually solved with an algorithm that became the foundation for the website. The mathematical model used makes it impossible to cheat the numbers on an evaluation. Good leases score high, bad ones low. The value in the lease scoring methods has now been recognised by the US patent office through their issuing of a notice of allowance.
What makes ShrewdLease stand out from the crowd?
Any lease can now be scored next to any other lease. Be it a Fiat 500 or a Bentley, all leases are boiled down to a single metric, reflecting the overall value for money that a lease offers. Once you decide on the vehicle that is best for you, thousands of dollars more can then be saved just by ensuring your lease score increases as you negotiate on the car you want. A detailed report highlighting areas for improvement is also included. No other site can match that. And it is free.
You have pledged that scoring leases on ShrewdLease will always remain free of charge for all. That is great for the buying public but how will ShrewdLease.com make money?
Well, it is not just great for the buying public. The site is good for the industry. Great lease offers shine in the analysis. If a dealer has a great offer on the table, then an unbiased lease report could be just what their customer needs to aid in their decision. Manufacturers can red flag a crazy lease deal that would likely cost them millions in the long run, before they commit to print.
Regarding revenue stream, there are a few web based businesses that provide the public with a platform to negotiate a car purchase, but none have been able to satisfy the leasing needs of these same customers to date. I am confident that our intellectual property in this arena will allow for the roll out a service that solves this problem once and for all. One in five autos are now leased in the US so a huge market opportunity exists.
So the motivation behind the site was to make money?
I am proud to have provided the public with a much needed leasing tool for free. I was grateful for all the thank you messages after posting lease score reports on one of the largest auto advocacy sites in the US. People had a need and It is great to be fulfilling that need. It was also very revealing to find all our posts removed almost as quickly! Actions like that make you question the motivation behind such organisations.
Making money is not our priority. Helping people save money is. We will succeed in that and ultimately we will be profitable. Consumers are the most powerful advocates and I am confident the service we are providing for free will be embraced. Who wants to pay more for a lease that you have to? Who wants you to pay more for a lease than you have to? Therein lies the problem we are helping solve one lessee at a time.
Besides founding ShrewdLease.com can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Sure, I am married to a fantastic woman, Elissa. we have two great children, Jack and Emilie. I coach soccer for the kids. My British accent gives the impression I must be well versed in the the game. I’m an avid cyclist. I raced the Cascade High 100 mountain bike race last year. A century off road was quite a challenge! Cyclocross is big in Portland and I try to see how long I can make a season before breaking something. I am passionate about cars. My favorite car I owned has to be the Caterham Supersport in McLaren dayglow orange. It literally glowed and was super fast. No leases on those unfortunately. On the professional front I have also enjoyed time consulting for both the light rail and Aerospace industries here in the US.
Thanks for your answers. Anything else you would like to add before I sign off?
Thank you for the questions. I hope I have provided some insight for our visitors. I ask that folks let us know when our lease evaluations save them money. The website feedback tab is available or I can be contacted directly (richard@ShrewdLease.com) Anything that people want us to help with or would like to see enhanced, let us know. Any ideas or suggestions are always appreciated.
And thanks for visiting ShrewdLease.com!