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Ex-Tesla CIO’s Auto Retail Startup Turns Unicorn in New Funding

(Bloomberg) -- Tekion Corp., a cloud-based automotive retail startup founded by a former Tesla Inc. executive, has raised $150 million from backers led by private equity investor Advent International, lifting its valuation to over $1 billion.The four-year-old startup, whose cloud software connects manufacturers, dealers and car buyers on a retail platform, drew investments from Index Ventures, Airbus Ventures, FM Capital and Exor -- the holding company of Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari -- in the Series C financing round, it said in a statement Wednesday. The company already has backing from a number of global automakers, including General Motors Co., BMW AG and the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The San Ramon, California-based technology company was founded by Jay Vijayan, a former chief information officer of electric vehicle giant Tesla, to offer end-to-end services in selling vehicles, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. The latest investment will allow Tekion to scale and expand to international markets like Japan and India as well as Europe next year, according to Vijayan.

“Car buying is a painful ordeal bogged down by price haggling with salesmen and inordinate waiting times at dealerships,” said Vijayan, speaking on the phone from San Ramon. Tekion wants to remove operational inefficiencies in auto retail and build a customized experience. “Our OEM clients are pleased with the speedy and remote rollout of the platform during the pandemic,” he said.

After going live late last year, Tekion currently has partnerships with 17 manufacturers and dozens of prominent dealers in over half of the states in the U.S. The platform helps automakers manage processes ranging from vehicle buying to maintenance and customer engagement.

“Today’s consumers receive outstanding personalized retail experiences from companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Disney,” Vijayan said in a statement announcing the funding. “Why shouldn’t they expect the same in their vehicle acquisition and service needs?”

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