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From the Front Line April 2020

pete c - Saturday, April 18, 2020
Automotive software entrepreneur and automotive dealership Director of Operations details the experiences of adapting a New York State dealer group to the executive orders related to Covid-19 in both sales and service. It’s been a few weeks since my last update, but you may recall I’ve been busy in our stores helping to navigate through remote digital sales and socially distanced and CDC compliant service operations. Now, 4 weeks in I have some common dealership experiences to share. 

 Fixed Operations: 

 To my surprise, complementary pick-up and delivery service has been in less demand than anticipated. But as I think about it, the customer’s relationship with their dealer’s service department is either strong or they simply take their business elsewhere. I have witnessed a level of trust among service customers who feel we are doing the right thing in terms of cleanliness of the service drive, customer lounge, restrooms as well as the condition of their vehicle upon completion of the work. As a result, they’d prefer to visit the dealerships “business as usual,” although at about ½ the typical April volume. However, dollars per RO have increased 20% because we have time to follow a process. We have seen this same level of trust lead to additional VSC sales in the drive. 

 Variable Operations: 

 Turns out people like to buy cars online! 

 Here’s a quick laugh – When this all started, I was describing the new “remote selling rules” to the dealer principal. One of his favorite lines has always been, “you can’t get a haircut over the phone and you can’t buy a car over the phone so just get them here!” 
I proceeded to point out that “remote” means we can sell cars over the phone.
 “That will never happen,” he grumbled. 
At that very moment our sales manager walked into the meeting and said, “sorry to interrupt fellas but I have a guy on the phone looking for 2 Ram trucks, what should I do?” 
The stapler barely missed my head, but I saw it coming. Not my first day. 

 My point is if you have a good process, customers will follow it. 

 Lastly – As I write this the factory just announced “employee pricing” with no dealer cash on our most profitable models. In fact, the retail “stack” includes us giving the customer our bonus money (if we earn it.) Slow learners, I guess. Here in the new reality average front and back-end grosses have more than doubled with a 15% increase in product penetration. Importantly, the process is the most transparent and compliant, I have ever witnessed. 

At least we have some of our freedom back. Let’s hope the rest is soon to follow.
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