I had a conversation the other day with a really sharp dealer client who owns multiple dealerships and has had some good months of late. He owns both domestic and import franchises. He and his staff are big believers in the vAuto technology and by combining that along with data from Auto Count USA they have seen tremendous results.
However, at his domestic stores he’s still not getting the used car numbers he would like. Even with stocking the hottest models in the marketplace, he’s still not where he would like to be.
As a new car dealer for twenty plus years, I performed quite well with “program cars," as I’m sure many of you did. As a matter of fact, without question it saved my business. I was in the “program car” business before most people could even spell “program cars.”
Over the last few years many dealers have moved away from that thinking in order to focus on the “hotter sellers” in the market. The reality is that there is always a need for a “program car” so that we have something to switch the customer to if the new car they desire won’t work for whatever reason.
One of the problems many dealers experienced by being in the program car business was they let them get out of control until the price and payment on the program car was as much if not more than a new one.
With my preaching of lowering your average cost in stock many of you have totally moved away from the program car concept. Maybe it’s time to move back.
The number one challenge has been and always will be to drive traffic to the dealership. In the early days of program cars many of us went out and bought 20 of them more or less alike and advertised as an example 20 Chevettes at $4995 (oh my, were those the days.) More often than not we sold half of them real fast and got stuck with the other half which were either bad colors or had higher miles on them.
In my case we finally figured out the best way to advertise them was in “SETS & SUBSETS.” As an example if you have 5 cars in your SET then you would want to use the one with the most miles, worst condition and least desirable color as the “price leader.” Then stagger the prices on the others based on the same criteria. Depending on state law you might be able to say “5 to choose from” or “starting at.”
So, the point here is that there are several things you can do to improve your business. One, study the data produced by companies like vAuto and Auto Count and stock accordingly. Two, get back in the “program car” business. But if you do, make sure you keep it under control by keeping the average cost down so you are not competing with your new. It also means using a concept like SETS that allows you to serve up a price leader. Then stagger the others and make sure you don’t advertise them all at the same price.
So, maybe we have come full circle. Maybe, now is the time to circle the wagons. Get back inside the box a bit and give program cars another shot. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs.