Redwood City car dealership makes first Bitcoin transaction 

  • Rick Bowmer/2013 AP file photo
  • A Redwood City car dealership now accepts Bitcoin.
Looking for a new high-end vehicle? Want it in 15 minutes?

Land Rover of Redwood City may be your source, as it is now accepting Bitcoin currency, according to the dealership and the company that helped complete its first transaction.

Through BitPay, an Atlanta-based transaction facilitator that launched in May 2011, a vehicle was recently purchased from the Peninsula dealership using the digital currency that’s making waves worldwide.

“I had no understanding of bitcoin; it’s a very hard concept to get,” said Doug Doyle, general sales manager for Land Rover of Redwood City. “BitPay really showed me how this whole transaction would take place. They came to the office and soothed my furrowed brow about the anxiety of a new and different transaction.”

Bitcoin, which has been in existence since 2009, is gaining steam as a global currency. Unlike virtually all other money in the world, it is not governed by a central bank but is rather a peer-to-peer system for paying for goods and services.

The currency gained some notoriety recently when the U.S. government seized about $28 million worth of it from the online illegal-drug marketplace Silk Road. It’s also well-known for its occasional volatile price fluctuations, which are somewhat due to its popularity among speculators.

For instance, in a 15-minute span Tuesday afternoon, a bitcoin’s value decreased by $18. One bitcoin was worth $784.

BitPay takes some of the headache out of the price changes by setting a value and completing the transaction in a 15-minute window, according to Stephanie Wargo, the company’s vice president of marketing.

For Land Rover of Redwood City, Doyle said that once the purchase was completed the bitcoins were immediately converted into U.S. dollars and transferred to his company. Therefore, the dealership did not have to hold on to the money and worry about whether it would be worth more or less the next day.

BitPay said the service works well for big-ticket items — the Land Rover of Redwood City sale was in excess of $100,000, said Doyle — because it charges a flat monthly rate ($30, $300 or $3,000 depending on the level of service) to process transactions, or a 1 percent charge. Financial institutions such as Visa, for instance, charge 2.25 to 3 percent per transaction, Wargo said.

Despite his initial apprehension, Doyle said he is satisfied with the BitPay service and expects to use it more often going forward.

“I think it’s going to be very common,” he said.

BitPay has 22,000 clients worldwide, about 50 percent of whom are based in North America.

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Max DeNike

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