Wheelwell Unveils Vehicle Feature Program For Auto Partners And Raises $3 Million

By Annie Baker ● May 23, 2019
  • Auto parts and custom car community company Wheelwell has announced it raised $3 million
  • Wheelwell has rolled out a vehicle feature program for its partners

Wheelwell is considered the first and largest social-commerce company for the auto market. Recently, Wheelwell made a couple of big announcements.

What does Wheelwell do? It is going after the automotive aftermarket industry by combining AI (artificial intelligence), advanced data analytics, and deep marketing integrations with Google and Facebook. And the foundation of Wheelwell and its rapid growth is being driven by a large social community of auto enthusiasts enabling Wheelwell to achieve industry-leading conversion rates.

$3 Million Funding Round

Wheelwell announced it closed $3 million in funding from a number of prominent investors. James Currier of NFX Capital and Hans Tung of GGV Capital led the round. This round of funding builds on previous angels from individuals including John Couch (former EVP of marketing at Apple), Steve Yankovich (former VP of product at eBay), and Jeff Bonforte (former SVP of communications products at Yahoo).

In conjunction with this round, James Currier is joining Wheelwell’s board of directors. “At NFX, we have been extolling the power of market network businesses for years. As market networks combine the best elements of networks like Facebook with marketplaces like eBay, we believe that market network-based companies will produce the most formidable companies in the coming decade,” explained Currier. “I see Wheelwell capturing the untapped potential of the automotive market by bringing together consumers, manufacturers, and service providers in a way not seen before in this industry.”

“We know from experience that peer validation gives consumers the confidence they need to make purchase decisions — in fact products on our site that feature content generated by our members convert to sales two times better,” said Wheelwell CEO Peter Joachim Nielsen. “Wheelwell has its sights set firmly on being the center of the universe for all things automotive. The automotive aftermarket industry is a gigantic opportunity for us. Last year, $117B was spent on parts, service and advertising in the US alone. The online sales channel has almost doubled over the past five years — and is expected to double again in the coming years. We’re on a mission to connect auto enthusiasts with their peers, the best parts, and the thrill of automotive sports.”

In order to fuel expansion, Wheelwell implemented an advanced, AI-controlled ETL database system that enables automatic and instantaneous updates of both new and existing products. With these new systems, Wheelwell has been able to double its number of manufacturing partners in 2019 and continues to add nearly 100,000 new products every month.

The auto aftermarket industry has seen some recent major wins. For example, AutoZone’s subsidiary AutoAnything was recently acquired by Kingswood Capital Management for an estimated $400 million.

“GGV was among the first investors to recognize the unique ability of social commerce companies to disrupt e-commerce. Indeed, companies like Poshmark are classic examples of how to execute this strategy in the apparel industry,” noted Tung. “When we met Wheelwell, we saw an opportunity for them to achieve what others have not in the automotive aftermarket: seamlessly integrate social with e-commerce.”

Vehicle Feature Program

Wheelwell announced it is partnering with Super Street Magazine for the launch of a service that provides Super Street editors with fast access to amazing builds and comprehensive documentation. This partnership will enable Super Street’s editors to search and select the perfect build from Wheelwell member garages to support upcoming feature stories.

Originally, the Vehicle Feature Program was launched earlier this month and Super Street editors have launched the search for the “next amazing build” that will feature prominently in its print and online versions of Super Street.

“The site is easy to use and has really caught on with enthusiasts worldwide who are eager to show off their hard work. And because it’s far more detailed than your average social media account, we thought it would be the ideal place to find the next feature car to grace the pages of Super Street!” commented Matt Rodriguez of TEN: The Enthusiast Network (Network Director for the Super Street Network).

In the past, editors of top car magazines and websites that wanted to feature a specific car modification or particular build had to either depend on submissions from readers or were forced to scour the Internet for potential candidates — which is a time-consuming process that rarely found ideal matches.

“We’ve built a community of over a million unique and highly engaged members who love to showcase their builds,” Wheelwell’s director of marketing Jonathan Mill commented. “They are proudly showcasing their vehicles and sharing their sources for the best aftermarket parts for their builds, how-to build tips, and track videos — and getting thousands of followers along the way. Super Street’s enthusiasm for what we are doing is exciting — we are confident they will get only the most detailed builds hand-delivered to their editors.”