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  • Merchandising | New & Used Vehicles

    2 Reasons Used Vehicles Will Guide New Vehicle Inventory Management?

    I have a prediction: Over the next three years, the way dealers manage, merchandise and price their new vehicle inventories will be dramatically different than how they’re handled today. In fact, I’d argue that the best practices we see today in used vehicles will serve as a guide for new vehicle departments.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    3 Indicators To Make Market-smart Used Vehicle Pricing Decisions

    At a recent dealer group presentation, a used vehicle manager asked me an astute question: “Dale, how can you tell when a used vehicle may need a price change?” I liked the question because it suggested the manager was a thoughtful and proactive person—someone who doesn’t follow the more traditional set-it-and-forget-it practice for used vehicle pricing.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    3 Keys to More Successful Proxy Bids for Vehicle Acquisitions

    In my previous column, I highlighted the three core prongs of a strategy for “Provisioning” used vehicle inventory — knowing what to buy, what to pay and where to find the vehicles you need. I made the case that technology and tools are essential to a) operate with greater certainty that your vehicles are right for your dealership and b) maximize your efficiency and profit potential for every vehicle at each step of the acquisition process.

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    3 Reasons Classified Sites Are Necessary for Used Vehicle Merchandising

    If I want to purchase a book, my first stop these days is Amazon.com. If I want to buy a pair of shoes, I’ll scout Zappos.com. If I need a plane ticket, I’ll head to Orbitz.com or Kayak.com. These websites are my current go-to choices for online shopping because they offer merchandise from a variety of sellers in a single place. In other words, the sites are marketplaces. They allow me to click around, compare products and sellers, and find the best deal that meets my needs.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    3 Reasons Price is Not a Pathway to Profitability

    It’s been a long-standing practice for dealers to mark up a used vehicle by $3,000 or more to provide enough room for negotiation with customers and a gross profit as they close deals. This pricing practice accounted for the belief that customers will want to negotiate, and salespeople typically don’t “hold gross” when discussions turn to price. Therefore, dealers viewed the markup as a way to hedge these risks and ensure a profit margin.

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  • Pricing Profitably | New Vehicles

    3 Reasons Transparency Is Fast Becoming The Trump Card For Today’s Buyers

    A colleague of mine recently purchased a 2014 Subaru Outback from a local dealer. He ended up using TrueCar to give him confidence in the price he should pay for the new vehicle. I had to ask the obvious question: “Why did you, of all people, use TrueCar?”

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  • Pricing Profitably | New Vehicles

    3 Tips To Stay Strong In New Vehicles As Sales Volumes Slow

    Incentives are on the rise. An Automotive News article notes that incentives are climbing as a percentage of new vehicle transaction prices. Overall, incentives ran nearly 9 percent last month, slightly less than December, but up from a year ago. Despite the incentives, most dealers saw little net gain in sales volumes.

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  • Pricing Profitably | New & Used Vehicles

    3 Ways Dealers Address Efficiency, Transparency Challenges

    It’s time for a little truth-telling. with TrueCar. As a matter of principle, dealers don’t like the company. And who’d blame them? TrueCar essentially tells customers, “we’ll set you straight on a vehicle price before you contact the dealer.” Yet, if you take the company’s customer base at face value, roughly half of all franchise dealers have signed on.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    3 Ways to Boost Your Competitive Edge in Used Vehicles

    In the past few weeks, industry news items have noted efforts by large dealer groups like AutoNation to become more efficient and effective used vehicle retailers. These efforts include partnerships with rental car companies to exclusively offer their fleet inventories for sale to dealer group customers. In addition, these larger groups have become more adept at leveraging their size and scale, shifting cars between stores and markets to capitalize on local market supply / demand trends. Likewise, the dealer groups have been testing premium and value used vehicle retail outlets to further capitalize on local market dynamics.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    3 Ways to Confront the Boogeyman in Used Vehicles

    A dealer recently took issue with my assertion that the used vehicle business has been suffering from margin compression. “Dale, we’re averaging $1,400 per vehicle in front-end gross,” the dealer said. “That’s a little less than we made seven to 10 years ago, but it’s not a lot less.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    3 Ways to Embrace the Rising Tide of Transparency

    There’s been much talk about what I call the rising tide of transparency in the car business. If you trace the lineage, this tide started nearly 15 years ago as vehicle invoices and pricing became ubiquitous online. I remember the heated debates among dealers back then: Should we post our vehicles online? If we do, should we include prices? If we post prices, should they be the same or different than those we offer at our physical dealership?

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    3 Ways to Make the Good Times in New Cars Even Better

    We’ve had an amazing year in new vehicles. September’s sales were very strong, spurring some analysts to raise predictions that we’ll close 2015 with more than 17 million new vehicles on the road. As the good times roll, I like to poke around behind the curtain — to see if dealers are doing as well as they could while the sales juggernaut continues.

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    3 Ways To Power Through The New Car Sales Plateau

    Maybe it’s the sub-zero temperatures or forecasts of heavy snow across the country. Or maybe dealers are getting smarter. Either way, there’s a bit of cold, hard reality in the air. More analysts and dealers are recognizing that while 2016 should be a decent year, it won’t be as good as 2015 or the previous couple years. There’s growing doubt that we’ll see another consecutive year when new vehicle sales volumes climb by 1 million or more units.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    3 Ways to Turn Your Average Inventory Cost into Advantage

    It’s becoming more critical for dealers to pay close attention to the average cost of their used vehicle inventory. I say this for three reasons: First, today’s market can lead dealers to believe that managing your average used vehicle cost isn’t important.

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    3 Ways Used Vehicle Best Practices Will Shape New Car Retailing

    I’ve long believed that there is a key difference between new and used vehicle shoppers. The difference boils down to this: After they’ve narrowed their vehicle shopping list, new vehicle shoppers start hunting for the best deal. They understand the vehicle they want could be purchased from a variety of dealers, so the terms of the transaction become a chief consideration.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    4 Factors That Make Auction-Buying More Difficult Than It Should Be

    You might think that with rising supplies of wholesale vehicles, dealers would have an easier time as they seek out auction cars to fill gaps in their used vehicle inventories. But the reality is much different. Across the country, dealers, used vehicle managers and their buyers still struggle to acquire the cars that will appeal most to buyers in their markets, and purchase them at prices that will yield respectable retail front-end margins.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    4 Ways to Increase Your Dealership’s Trade-in Performance

    As new vehicle sales gather steam, dealers have an opportunity to ease some of their used vehicle sourcing pain: Keeping more trade-ins for retail. This is easier said than done, of course, but dealers would be remiss to not re-visit their appraisal processes to ensure they aren’t letting opportunities to buy the right vehicles pass them by.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    4 Ways to Keep More Trades and Maximize Profitability

    Many dealers correctly recognize the need to keep more trade-ins to feed their used vehicle inventories. This trend raises an age-old tension at many dealerships: The new vehicle department typically wants to set the highest trade-in value possible to satisfy the customer and close a deal. The used vehicle department prefers low-balling trade-in values to maximize the retail profit potential on every car from the get-go.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    5 Pointers to Preserve and Protect Profitability as You Acquire Used Vehicles

    Most dealers would agree that you make your money in used vehicles when you acquire a car. If you pay too much for an auction or trade-in vehicle, you’ve shrunk the spread between your costs to acquire and recondition the unit, and its retail selling point. Conversely, if you “steal” a car, you’ve widened the spread and set the stage for a healthy front-end gross.

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  • Pricing Profitably | New & Used Vehicles

    A 3-step Plan to Prepare for the Sales Model of the Future

    I’ve been getting more inquiries lately from dealers asking about the merits of a one-price sales environment at their dealerships. The dealers have seen reports in automotive trade press about groups like Sonic Automotive adopting this non-traditional approach to provide a more efficient, cost-effective, and customer-friendly process for selling new and used vehicles.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    A Closer Look At The Evolution Of Used Vehicle Inventory Age Benchmarks

    It wasn’t too long ago that dealers routinely kept used vehicles for 90 days as retail units. More recently, dealers have adjusted this retail timeline to account for rising price competition and transparency spurred by the Internet, as well as the always-increasing costs of keeping cars in retail-ready condition on your lot.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    A Four-Part Plan To Fight The “Big Squeeze” In Used Vehicles

    Many dealers are suffering from the “Big Squeeze” in used vehicles. The effects of the “Big Squeeze” are easy to identify. Dealers are paying higher costs to acquire and recondition used vehicles, and seeing a greater degree of pressure on retail prices and front-end gross profits. We can thank increased competition among dealers to find and retail used vehicles, and Internet-driven price awareness among consumers, as the chief drivers for what I call the “Big Squeeze.”

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    A Front-end Gross Gut Check

    One of the coolest things about my job is quick access to a lot of really smart people. When I have a question that requires industry-level data, help is only an email or phone call away. I used this privilege the other day after talking with a dealer about a gross profit problem in used vehicles. The dealer didn’t think his average $900 front-end gross profit was enough.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    A Goal For 2014: Win Without Fighting — And Sell More New/Used Vehicles

    As I look ahead to the coming year, I see a trifecta of potential trouble for dealers: First, dealers will want to continue the pace of renewed new and used sales volumes and profitability they enjoyed in 2013. Second, consumers will get even hungrier for the best deal, heeding calls from TrueCar and others to not “overpay” to buy a vehicle while getting a guaranteed, no-haggle price and experience.

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  • Pricing Profitably | New & Used Vehicles

    A Key Question For These Times: Are You Pricing Cars Or Customers?

    Here’s a question I believe dealers must ask themselves honestly: If three different customers came into your dealership asking about the price on a vehicle, would they all get the same answer? I’ve posed this question with a lot of dealers in recent months. The answer I get most often is, “Probably not.”

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    A Look at “Known Unknowns” of Used Car Retailing

    I recently read a column in the New York Times that discussed the “known unknowns” of our current time. The writer, author Geoffrey Wheatcroft, defines the term as “things that were not at all inevitable, and were easily knowable, or indeed known, but which people chose to ‘unknow.’” He then describes how “known unknowns” were chief contributors to the current economic downturn, recent financial scandals and political turmoil. I couldn’t help but think of some of the “known unknowns” of used vehicle retailing:

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    A Pay Plan to Build Transparency and Hold Gross

    I’m seeing a new breed of pay plans emerge at dealerships that seek to balance transparency with customers and the store’s need to make a profit on every deal. Here’s an example from a dealership that has achieved double-digit growth in its used vehicle sales since adopting Velocity® principles, market-based pricing and a transparency-minded sales approach (e.g., RealDeal) with customers:

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    A Six-step Plan to Increase Used Vehicle Profitability

    I’ve had chocolate chip cookies on my mind lately. The reason? I can’t eat them the way I used to, thanks to a daily diet and exercise regimen I’ve adopted. I’ve come to (reluctantly) embrace the “new me” because I now understand its rewards. I have more energy. I sleep better. I’ve shed a few pounds. I no longer get my doctor’s “I’m warning you” look when I go in for a check-up.

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  • Sourcing | Used Vehicles

    A Smarter Way to Tackle Today’s Used Vehicle Sourcing Challenge

    I’ve long been a fan of doing things as efficiently and effectively as possible — with a particular focus on applying these principles to tough dealership management problems. Of late, the top used vehicle challenge has been sourcing the right vehicles for a dealership and its marketplace. I speak daily with used vehicle managers who feel like a dog chasing its tail — an awful lot of energy and effort, with little to show for it.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    A Three-point Plan To Speed Up Your Sales Processes

    In the past several years, many dealers have come to understand that speed matters in their dealerships. This emphasis on speed has been most profound in used vehicles, where dealers have been aggressively working to sell a greater number of vehicles in less time.

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  • Department Performance | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    A Three-step Test to Improve Your Used Vehicle Department Performance

    I’d recommend that every dealer conduct the following three-part test of their used vehicle department: Step 1: Determine Your Average Cost of Inventory. How does this figure compare to three or six months ago? Is it up or down, and by how much? Step 2: Assess Your Inventory Age.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Addressing Increased Used Vehicle Supplies, Depreciation

    You might say that the blessing we’ve enjoyed in used vehicles is running out of gas. The blessing has been a relatively stable balance between used vehicle supplies and demand. These market forces have helped to subdue the effects of used vehicle depreciation for much of the year.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Addressing the “Perfect Used Car” Problem

    For the past few months, I’ve been monitoring dealer used vehicle inventories through vAuto’s new Provision® Suite, an inventory management engine that assigns letter grades to prospective vehicles a dealer might acquire. An eye-opening finding: It’s very rare for the “perfect used car” (or one that has an “A” grade or better) to appear on a dealer’s recommended buy list. Instead, the vast majority of recommended vehicles receive B- or C-level grades.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    An Independent Perspective On The Used Car Business

    For one thing, he’s a lot more disciplined than many franchise and independent dealers when it comes to buying vehicles at auctions. “If you walk out to the Dallas Auto Auction on a Wednesday, it’s just eye-opening the amount of dollars changing hands, based solely on the hairs on the backs of people’s necks. There’s so much opinion, experience and perception driving decisions.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    An Innovator’s View — Dale Pollak’s Quest to Address Key Dealership Challenges

    I’ve been pondering a quote from English author, philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon: “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” I found Bacon’s quote while looking for a concise, simple statement that describes two new market realities for car dealers:

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Are You Going Backwards?

    Do you agree that the Internet makes it less likely each and every day that used car investment dollars will generate lucky profits? If you do, then you already know that you have a dilemma on your hands. The problem is that you have to figure out how to make up for those lost gross dollars in today’s changed used car marketplace.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Beyond Price: A Holistic Approach to Used Vehicle Profitability

    Many dealers have come to understand that if they price a used vehicle too high, today’s market-conscious used vehicle shoppers won’t give the car a second look. This understanding has pushed some dealers in a positive direction. They are more market smart as they set retail asking prices for used vehicles. They do not automatically apply a standard $3,000+ markup to every vehicle they put up for sale.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Cost To Market Clarifiers: How The Metric Helps You Manage Used Vehicle Profitability

    It’s fair to say the auto retail business has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 75 years combined. Much of the change owes to the rise of the Internet and new technologies, which have transformed the way consumers shop for used vehicles and how dealers manage their inventories.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Dealers as Hunter-Gatherers or Farmers — Where Do You Stand?

    Here’s a question that’s had me thinking: Has the evolution of the automotive retail business reached a point where dealers need to stop hunting and start farming? The question came to mind during a conversation with Jamie Haruch, an industry analyst for AutoTrader.com. He offered an anthropologist-type view of dealers — some are hunter-gatherers, while others appear to have advanced to more agrarian or farmer-like modes of operation.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Dissecting Two Different Types of Used Vehicle Retailers

    In my conversations and travels, I encounter two different types of dealers. The first group often struggles with aged units in their used vehicle inventories, persistent wholesale losses and an as-yet unfulfilled desire to increase their sales volumes and overall profitability.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Documentation is the New Negotiation

    RealDeal.com is the industry’s first live and objective price check on pre-owned vehicles. With RealDeal, dealers can show customers how their prices compare against the prices of similarly equipped vehicles for sale, allowing customers to feel confident in their purchase price before they sign on the dotted line. Today, dealerships using RealDeal are able to limit the amount of the discount between the asking and the selling price to an average of a few hundred dollars.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Factory Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles: Three Ways to Maximize A Viable Market Segment

    Dealers have been asking recently about factory certified pre-owned (CPO) programs. The questions flow in part from recent efforts by factories to step up their CPO sales volumes. The questions essentially boil down to two queries: Are factory CPO programs really worth the price of entry? And, if CPO programs do make sense, how can I consistently make money selling CPO vehicles?

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Five Benchmarks to Guide Your Used Vehicle Investment Success in 2013

    “Dale, what can I do to take my used vehicle operations to the next level in 2013?” This question comes my way more frequently, and much earlier in the year, than it did in the past. To me, this is a good thing — more dealers are thinking hard and planning ahead to do a better job in their used vehicle operations.

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  • Reconditioning | Used Vehicles

    Five Pointers To Improve Your Used Vehicle Reconditioning Process

    You’ll get a range of responses when you ask dealers how much time it takes to recondition used vehicles. The best-performing dealers these days consistently get the job done in 24 hours or less. Meanwhile, other dealers report their reconditioning turnaround times run seven days or more.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Five Used Vehicle Challenges to Address in 2013

    In the past several months, I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing and researching the current and future challenges confronting dealers. This work has fed my upcoming third book, Velocity Overdrive: The Road to Reinvention. It highlights how dealers are reinventing people and processes to meet their goals for increased used vehicle sales and profitability in an ever-changing and increasingly challenging marketplace.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    Fixing Three Common Used Vehicle Profitability Problems

    A growing number of dealers say they’re having a hard time turning a profit in their used vehicle departments. The problem isn’t that these dealers aren’t selling enough vehicles. In most cases, these dealers have increased their used vehicle sales volumes. They’ve adopted inventory management technology and tools to help them acquire the right cars and price them competitively to attract today’s online used vehicle shoppers. Even so, the dealers say they’re closing more deals, but "we’re not making anything when we sell the car."

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Four Best Practices to Minimize Supply / Demand Volatility in Used Vehicles

    There are a few signs that market volatility could make the upcoming spring and early summer selling season challenging for dealers. Sign 1: Increased supplies of wholesale used vehicles. The expected influx owes to the industry’s emphasis on leased vehicles in recent years. Leasing volume has been a key driver behind the industry’s year-over-year growth in new vehicle sales since 2009. Many of the lease deals carry two- and three-year terms, and analysts expect a rise in the rate of returns as these leases expire.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    Four Factors That Make Auction-buying More Difficult Than it Should Be

    You might think that, with rising supplies of wholesale vehicles, dealers would have an easier time as they seek out auction cars to fill gaps in their used vehicle inventories. But the reality is much different. Across the country, dealers, used vehicle managers and their buyers still struggle to acquire the cars that will appeal most to buyers in their markets, and purchase them at prices that will yield respectable retail front-end margins.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    Four Operational Challenges for Dealers To Address In 2014

    If I were to offer a two-word outlook for the coming year it would be, “cautiously optimistic.” Don’t get me wrong. I think 2014 will be a strong year, and perhaps a repeat of the sales and profit success dealers achieved in 2013 in both new and used vehicles.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Four Pointers To Achieve Your Used Vehicle Sales, Profitability Potential

    I’ve been hearing from dealers concerned that they aren’t able to reach what they consider the full potential in their used vehicle departments. In many cases, these are dealers who seek to move the goal posts — they’ve consistently sold 50 or 60 used vehicles a month, but want to do more.

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    Four Pointers To Get Used Cars To The “Virtual Front Line” Quickly

    Last month, I addressed best practices to help dealers get vehicles out of reconditioning and retail-ready in less time. My article was intended to help dealers recognize the “time is money” nature of today’s used vehicle business and help them minimize delays that prevent them from getting cars to the “front line” in a matter of hours, not days.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Four Reasons “A Loss” In Used Vehicles Is Really A Gain

    I’ve been noticing a dividing line between dealers in recent months as I evaluate their used vehicle inventories and performance. The first group of dealers tends to struggle with over-age inventory. As I dig deeper, I’ll often see they’ve got decent cars, and their asking prices aren’t completely out of line with the market.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Four Tips to Navigate the “Trickiest Time” of the Year in Used Vehicles

    Spring is both a blessing and a curse for car dealers. The blessing, of course, is the increase in used vehicle sales most dealers enjoy this time of year. Consumers are shaking off winter and purchasing cars as the temperatures rise and tax refunds aid their buying power.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Four Ways to Avoid Used Vehicle Inventory Age Problems

    I’ve been getting the following question from dealers: “How can I reduce the number of aged vehicles in my inventory?” The smarty-pants answer is, “Don’t let your vehicles get old.” The real answer, as we know, isn’t that simple. But the first step toward an age-free inventory is simple, and I can sum it up in a single word: Discipline.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Four Ways to Shift Your Dealership Performance into “Overdrive”

    “Dale, remember this: As the used vehicle department goes, so goes the entire dealership.” My dad offered this advice as I was taking over the used vehicle department at our Cadillac store. I don’t think his guidance was unusual for dealers of his era. In my dad’s case as a domestic dealer, you really couldn’t count on the factory to produce hot-selling cars every year. For him, used vehicles were often the lifeline for cash flow and profitability at the family dealership.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Gaining a Competitive Edge with Used Vehicle Acquisitions

    It doesn’t look like we’ll see the job of acquiring the right used vehicles for a dealership getting any less challenging in 2015. In fact, for some dealers, the coming year may be even more challenging. Forecasts say we’ll continue to see tight competition among dealers for wholesale vehicles, as more turn to auctions to build used vehicle sales volumes, cash flow and dealership net profits. This means there will be greater pressure to find the right cars at the right price — and more temptation to raise the hand at auction even though a unit may not make financial sense for a dealership.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    Getting Past Pricing to Build Used Vehicle Profitability

    “Dale, we’re selling more used cars but I’m not making any money.” This is a common complaint among dealers, particularly those who’ve adjusted their retail asking prices to reflect today’s more competitive and price-sensitive used vehicle market.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Helping Used Vehicle Managers Efficiently Find the “Right” Vehicles

    It’s no mystery why many dealerships can’t effectively move the sales needle in their used vehicle departments. The fact is, it’s harder than ever to find used units that are “right” for a store’s market area and profit goals, let alone find enough of them to efficiently boost inventory turn and sales rates.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    How Market Data Helps Build Pricing and Profitability

    There are two key challenges facing many used vehicle dealers: How to ensure competitive retail asking prices to attract buyers and how to hold grosses on these deals when buyers show up. The solution to these challenges, I believe, rests with a rethinking of how dealers have traditionally set retail asking prices for used vehicles, and retraining sales teams to address your price and pricing strategy up front with customers. The end result: Customers will typically pay what you ask for, with only minimal discounts (typically less than $200) to close a deal.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    How Technology and Transparency Build Confidence in Every Used Vehicle Deal

    There’s no question — the Internet has changed the used car business. In the not-so-distant past, used vehicle shoppers did their research at dealerships. They visited several stores to find cars that fit their driving needs and preferences, prices to match their budget and salespeople they felt they could trust.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    How to Address Low Gross Profits in Today’s Marketplace

    It’s not uncommon to hear dealers say, “Our grosses are too low,” when they adopt the Velocity Method of Management™ principles for their used vehicle department. The reality, however, is that gross profit margins are under pressure for every dealer — irrespective of whether they use Velocity® principles or more traditional approaches for managing used vehicle inventories.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    How to Address the Top 3 Concerns of Today’s Used Vehicle Buyers

    Most dealers agree that used vehicle buyers typically have three key questions on their minds as they’re considering a purchase: Is this the right car for me? Is this the right deal? Is this the best dealership for my business? These questions are not new, of course. In fact, I’d argue they’ve been around since the days when dealers first started selling used cars.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    How to Avoid “Gotcha!” Moments in Used Vehicle Acquisitions

    Every dealer has had a “gotcha!” used vehicle moment. This occurs when a dealership acquires a vehicle with high hopes of seeing it perform well at retail, only to watch it age into a money loser. Sometimes the “gotcha!” moment comes after a sudden market shift — perhaps gas prices go up or consumer confidence crashes. More often, though, the market isn’t chiefly to blame.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    How to Avoid Two Common Sins of Summer in Used Vehicles

    It’s common for dealers to commit two cardinal sins in used vehicles as summer gets underway. The first sin is the impulse to beef up used vehicle inventory to drive additional sales. Every summer, it seems, I hear from dealers who plan to add 30 to 50 units to their used vehicle inventories.

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    How to Effectively Satisfy the Top 3 Needs of Today’s Used Vehicle Buyers

    A recent study from Accenture offers a telling peek at what today’s vehicle buyers want from dealers: 80 percent of the 13,000 study respondents want access to more intuitive, customized online content. Roughly 75 percent want a process that offers more simplified information, particularly when it comes to comparing vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of respondents want better, mobile-based content delivery options, and would welcome online chats with dealer sales teams.

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  • Dept. Performance | Used Vehicles

    How Velocity Influences a Dealership’s Bottom Line

    As I discuss in my latest book, Velocity Overdrive: The Road to Reinvention, the successful adoption of the Velocity Method of Management™ in a dealership requires a champion. This individual, who is often a dealer principal or a key manager, serves as the steward of the people and processes that execute the Velocity strategy.

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  • Dept. Performance | Used Vehicles

    Provision: The Latest Innovation From vAuto

    Keith Kocourek has a new weapon in his competitive arsenal: A used vehicle inventory management system that helps him retail vehicles in less time, and make more money, at his five Wasuau, Wisconsin based dealerships.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Provisioning: A New Approach to Stocking Used Vehicles

    It’s no real secret anymore that the principles of velocity-based inventory management — where a store turns and earns — is a must to survive in today’s volatile marketplace. There are ample success stories across our industry where dealers and used car managers have doubled or even tripled their annual inventory turn rates and relied on the profits that derive from velocity principles to keep their stores afloat as new vehicle sales have stalled or disappeared altogether.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    Proxy Bid Update: An Exclusive Review of Dealer Bidding Data

    I believe proxy bids represent the next generation of used vehicle acquisitions as competition and supply constraints force dealers to widen the number of sources they use to feed their inventories. Given these conditions, proxy bids strike me as the most efficient way for a dealership to extend its acquisition efforts to reach multiple outlets at the same time. Yet, many dealers say proxy bids are ineffective. They say vehicle win rates are too low (10 percent or less) and they rarely win vehicles for less than their maximum bid amounts.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Reports Aim to End Bicker Over Sticker

    Dale Pollak has created an interactive online product that he says will reduce the need for used-vehicle price negotiation at the dealership. The RealDeal Report shows how the price of a used vehicle compares with the prices of vehicles of similar make, model and age that also are for sale in a dealer’s market.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Rethinking the Problem of Serving Subprime Customers

    Industry analysts estimate that subprime customers account for about 25 percent of used vehicle financing deals in the past year. With this stat as a backdrop, many dealers are eyeing the subprime segment in the current year as they extend their goals for used vehicle market share and sales.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    Rethinking the “Race To the Bottom” in New and Used Vehicles

    If I were still a dealer, here’s how I would address the “race to the bottom” that every dealer complains about these days. First, I’d recognize the “race” as an inevitable outcome of two converging forces — A) the vehicle buyer’s desire to get the best deal, using every technique and technology to know the market for a specific car, and B) the dealer’s desire to acquire more customers and sell more vehicles.

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  • Reconditioning | Used Vehicles

    Road to Reinvention Series: A Call for Velocity®-minded Used Vehicle Reconditioning

    The following is an email shared by used vehicle consultant Tommy Gibbs. His message originates from a used vehicle manager at a Midwest Honda store who read Gibbs’ latest newsletter and asked for help to address a problem with used vehicle reconditioning: “It kills me that all other facets of our business have evolved, especially with the integration of vAuto into our used car operations. We cannot buy or price or negotiate the way we did five years ago. Yet we are saddled with an overpriced, slow recon that is only worried about generating six-plus hours per RO, and adding on their 40%-50% parts markup.”

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    Selling Cars Is Like Popcorn

    Many dealers are familiar with the phrase “popcorn cars.” This refers to cars that sell or “pop” quickly off the lot. The analogy between cars and popcorn, however, may have more relevance today than ever in the past. The essential ingredients of popcorn are kernels, oil and fire.

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  • Dept. Performance | Used Vehicles

    Seven Hard-To-Break Habits That Undermine Used Vehicle Performance

    Old habits are definitely hard to break, especially for car dealers. For one thing, dealers have had a lot of good, highly profitable years managing their businesses the same way as prior generations did. In addition, dealers typically resist change, just like everyone else.

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  • Reconditioning | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Seven Rules To Recondition Used Vehicles “Right” Every Time

    I like the way the Paul Lynch, general sales manager of DePaula Chevrolet in Albany, New York, thinks about used vehicle reconditioning. “It’s just as important in terms of gross profit as working the deal in the front of the store,” Lynch said. “I know that may sound crazy, but I really believe it.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Seven Vital Signs to Optimize Every Used Vehicle Inventory Acquisition

    Whenever I go to a doctor for a checkup, my visit usually starts with a history and physical assessment. The H&P, as medical folks dub it, is a cornerstone of healthcare. It gives the medical professionals an opportunity to efficiently ask me questions about how I’m feeling and the details of my past medical history, as well as perform quick physical checks of my blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, reflexes, etc., to assess my overall condition at that moment.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Sourcing Hot Vehicles

    The perception of not being able to source hot vehicles for the right money is understandable but wrong. The reason that it’s understandable is that we never knew how good we had it. When the market delivered 17 million new cars, dealers stood on their lots and people threw trade-ins at them.

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    The Art Of Wholesaling Used Vehicles In Today’s Market

    I fundamentally believe that dealers should sell every vehicle they acquire as a retail unit to a retail customer. But I also recognize that retailing every used vehicle isn’t always possible — even with the best market data, technology and tools to guide a retail exit on every car.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    The Efficiency Imperative: The Only Road for Future Prosperity

    I’ve had several eye-opening conversations with dealers lately. And, frankly, I’m worried. The conversations start with an acknowledgment of the extremely good run we’re all currently enjoying in the car business. Volumes are up at most dealerships. Profits are good. Dealers are looking forward to closing 2015 in even better shape than they were a year ago.

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  • Sourcing | Wholesale Vehicles

    The Last Mile: Making Your Online Acquisitions More Efficient

    There’s a curious irony at work in our industry. That is, dealers know they need to give online shoppers as much information about their used vehicles as possible to capture their confidence and interest in a unit. Yet, when it comes to wholesaling their vehicles at online auctions, dealers neglect to provide photos, condition reports and other information a buyer might use to size up an acquisition.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    The Path to Profitability

    Recently, I received a note from a successful dealer stating in part that they’ve experienced difficulty with appraisals of late. Part of it is that they are stretching so far to make new car deals, they’re often putting too much into a trade. His desk managers are really finding a larger disconnect between auction values and what other similar cars with respect to miles and trim are selling for on the Internet.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Best Practices to Manage Used Vehicles as Investments

    I’ve long advocated that dealers manage their used vehicles as investments — their No. 1 goal should be to maximize their return on investment (ROI) within the shortest amount of time and the least amount of risk.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Common Causes for Used Vehicle Inventory Age Issues

    About a year ago, a Chevrolet dealer in Texas decided the time had come to “get in the game of selling more used cars.” The dealer had been selling about 60 cars a month and wanted to sell 100. The increase would come from two key operational changes — a larger inventory and an effort to price vehicles to the current market.

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  • Managing Age | New Vehicles

    Three Factors that Impede Market Share Growth

    For many dealers, the new car business is increasingly all about volume. This reality doesn’t hold for every new vehicle — particularly in cross-over and truck segments that continue to be sought-after purchases by consumers and yield respectable grosses. But overall, the business is less about front-end gross profit, and more about volume, than it has ever been in the past.

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  • Department Performance | New & Used Vehicles

    Three Keys to Improve Performance Profitability in 2016

    I have bad news to share about the upcoming year. It’s not that 2016 won’t be good for dealers. Most signs suggest we’ll have another robust year of new and used vehicle sales. But here’s the problem: Dealers won’t necessarily be making more money in 2016, even if they’re able to sell more new and used vehicles than they did in 2015.

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  • Holding Gross | New & Used Vehicles

    Three Keys To Maximizing Gross As Transparency Grows In 2015

    It shouldn’t be news for dealers that margins in new and used vehicles are under pressure. As we look ahead to the coming year, there are few, if any, signs that margin compression will abate. On the new vehicle side, there are predictions that a push to sell more cars will drive higher factory incentive spending and, in turn, press down front-end margins for dealers as they retail the vehicles.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Three Pointers to Ensure Used Vehicle Prices Maximize Profitability

    “I got to work and my GM said we had 20 calls and e-mails about a car. That’s the last thing I want to hear. It’s like, ‘Geez, we did it again.’” If I would have heard this comment from a dealer 15 years ago, I would have thought he was nuts.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    Three Problem Areas that Hurt Used Vehicle Profitability

    In the past several weeks, I’ve met with dealers to discuss front-end gross profit problems in used vehicles. The gross profit problems, it should be noted, are not due to low sales volumes. Often, these dealers are selling more used vehicles than they used to. The issue is that front-end gross profits are not meeting dealer expectations.

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Three Questions to Soften the Spring-Fed Impulse to Acquire Inventory

    Every spring, dealers get flush with confidence and excitement as sales and profitability pick up in their used vehicle departments. This year is no different, and it seems dealers are especially buoyant. Here’s a quick sampling of comments from recent e-mails and phone calls:

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Reasons a Front-End Focused Strategy Falls Short in Used Vehicles

    I’ve been hearing more disenchantment and doubt from dealers about the value of a turn-and-earn strategy for retailing used vehicles, which I call the Velocity Method of Management. The most vocal detractors are typically dealers who have long taken pride in the average front-end gross proft they achieve in used vehicles. The dealers like seeing their stores listed at the top of the 20 Group composites, with front-end gross averages that can run $1,000 or more than their peers.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Reasons A “Turn And Earn” Strategy Eludes Some Dealers

    For the past several years, I’ve been a vocal advocate of a market-based inventory management strategy that pushes dealers to turn their used vehicle inventories to maximize return on investment and minimize risk. My advocacy flows from a belief that today’s market penalizes dealers who do not make a concerted effort to sell more used vehicles in less time.

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    Three Reasons Efficiency Will Ultimately Drive New Car Profitability

    It’s probably not the best time to talk about problems in the new car business. After all, dealers have been enjoying what may go down in history as unprecedented success in new vehicles. Sales have been on a steady climb since 2008, and everyone expects the current year to end on the same, if not better, note as last year.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Reasons the Used Car May Not Be an Age Problem

    I hear the following from dealers several times a week: “That car doesn’t work for us.” “Why?” I’ll ask. “We tried it before and we got burned,” is a typical reply. “Well, let’s take a look,” I’ll say. This look at market data is always illuminating. Often, I’ll find that market data for the “we got burned” vehicle in question suggest it isn’t really the loser a dealer believes it to be. Instead, the problem lies in the way dealer acquired the vehicle and / or managed its life cycle and exit strategy.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Three Takeaways From the CarMax® Used Vehicle Playbook

    Just before Christmas, CarMax released results for its third quarter of fiscal year 2013. The company, like many Velocity® dealers, saw positive results in used vehicles — total unit sales were up 16 percent for the quarter compared to the prior year, an increase that included a 12 percent gain in same-store sales volumes. As I reviewed the company’s financials and earnings call transcript, I found three share-worthy nuggets for all dealers who seek to maximize their used vehicle return on investment (ROI) sales and profitability:

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways Dealers Work to Minimize Inventory Age in Used Vehicles

    It wasn’t all that long ago when most dealers really only worried about one or two things in their used vehicle departments: the average front-end gross profit, and the number of cars they’d sold to date in a given month. As a result, the used vehicle manager would also focus on the same things. On occasion, you might find a used vehicle manager who truly focused on inventory age, but these individuals were as rare as the dealers who truly cared about aging units.

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  • Merchandising | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways Dealership Website Analytics Aid Inventory and Merchandising Decisions

    Several dealers have asked about the value of using a dealership’s website analytics to manage used vehicle inventories. My guidance typically starts with a cautionary point: While customer clicks on dealer inventory pages are meaningful, they do not necessarily provide sufficient insight to determine if a current make or model of car remains “right,” and another one should be acquired. This is because a simple tally of the vehicles that get the most looks on a dealer’s website doesn’t tell us enough about the car’s potential as an investment, let alone all the reasons a customer clicked on a specific unit for a closer look.

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    Three Ways Efficiency-Focused Dealers Will Gain Advantage In New Vehicles

    It’d be safe to bet that 2015 will be a good year for dealers. The forecasts are rosy. The consensus among analysts is that dealers will likely retail around 17 million new vehicles this year, a tally the industry hasn’t seen since 2006.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways Packs Prove Problematic for Dealers

    There’s no question that dealers like packs. But packs have become increasingly problematic for dealers, sometimes in ways they fail or refuse to see. I recently asked a group of dealers to share how much they packed their used vehicles. The responses ranged from $0/per car to $1,200/car. I then asked the dealers at the low and high end for additional details:

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    Three Ways Technology and Transparency Are Transforming New Vehicle Retailing

    It’s fair to say that the advent of new technologies and the rise of pricing transparency have forever changed the used vehicle business. Today, the most successful used vehicle dealers rely on technology/tools to determine the vehicles they should stock, the asking prices they promote, and the profit they can expect from any vehicle.

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  • Merchandising | New & Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Avoid Falling Flat with Today’s Vehicle Buyers

    Let’s imagine that you’re sitting front and center as your favorite band takes the stage. You bought tickets a few weeks ago. You cleared your schedule. You’re excited as the band cranks up the opening tune. The singer steps up to the microphone. But the first note falls flat, followed by another clunker. You wince, and think: “What the...? I didn’t come all the way here for this!”

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Boost Used Vehicle Profitability While Selling More Cars

    In its 2014 report on dealership financial performance, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) highlights a disturbing trend in used vehicles. The NADA report notes that franchise dealers enjoyed a 6 percent increase in used vehicle sales compared to 2013 — an increase similar to what dealers saw in 2013, compared to 2012. Yet, net profits for used vehicles declined last year, which leads to a key question: “What gives?”

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  • Holding Gross | New & Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Combat Margin Compression in New and Used Vehicles

    I’ve been doing some mid-year check-ins with dealers. So far, 2015 is treating dealers pretty well. For most, new and used vehicle sales volumes are healthy; some dealers would like to see more volume, and they’re working through the challenges that come with softer demand in some segments.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Ease the Pain of Declining Wholesale Used Vehicle Values

    Let’s imagine that you own a gas station. A week ago, the supply truck filled the underground tanks at your station at a wholesale cost of $3.30 per gallon. Today, as you opened the station for business, you learned that the wholesale cost had dropped to $3. You look across the street and see a supply truck filling up the tanks at the competition, and a new posted retail price that’s 15 cents less per gallon than your price.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Eliminate the Used Vehicle Manager’s “Double Curse”

    Some used vehicle managers carry a double curse. The first curse is their absolute focus on average front-end gross profit. They’ll say, “I can’t change this price because there won’t be enough front-end gross,” or, “I can’t buy this auction car because there won’t be enough front-end gross,” or, “I can’t offer the customer what their trade-in’s really worth because there won’t be enough front-end gross.”

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  • Sourcing | Used & Wholesale Vehicles

    Three Ways to Make Trade-ins Work Better for Your Dealership

    As new vehicle sales gather steam, dealers have an opportunity to ease some of their used vehicle sourcing pain and help the new vehicle sales department hit volume targets to earn factory bonus money: Keeping more trade-ins for retail. This is easier said than done, of course, but dealers would be remiss to not revisit their appraisal processes to ensure they aren’t letting opportunities to buy the right vehicles pass them by.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Manage Imminent Volatility in the Used Vehicle Marketplace

    “The used car market has been way overvalued for the past 36 months and I think it’s time for it to pop.” I started hearing this and similar comments from dealers in early February — a time of year that dealers are typically more upbeat about their used vehicles prospects, given the spring and early summer selling season are right around the corner.

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  • Pricing Profitably | New & Used Vehicles

    Three Ways To Minimize Discounts and Improve Front-End Margins

    If dealers compare their current front-end gross profit averages in new and used vehicles to similar data five years ago, you’d likely notice a troubling trend. I’ve conducted this exercise with dealers recently as part of conversations about margin compression in automotive retail. In most cases, the analysis shows that front-end gross profits are pretty much what they used to be, if not even a little less, depending on a dealer’s franchise.

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  • Managing Age | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Reduce the Risk of Used Vehicle Market Volatility

    I like the analogy a Midwest Velocity® dealer recently shared as we discussed recent declines in wholesale used vehicle values: “I try to manage my used vehicle inventory like a bobber on a lake. When wholesale values drop, it’s like a wave washes over the bobber. We’re underwater on some cars for a short bit, but we’ll flush them fast and acquire new cars to bring us back up to the surface. We’re basically riding the market rather than fighting it.”

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Reinvent the Road to the Sale and Improve Gross Profits

    When I came up in the car business, I was taught the 10-step “Road to the Sale.” As most dealers know, this traditional sales method assesses a customer’s needs, builds rapport and highlights the features and benefits of a specific vehicle. It purposefully forestalls any discussion of price until you’ve come back from a test drive to complete the final steps of a sale.

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  • Reconditioning | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways to Rethink Reconditioning and Improve Profitability

    I was always taught that a dealer should never apologize for anything when it came to used vehicles. This meant that we would always spend the time and money to go the extra mile with the reconditioning of every used car at my family’s dealership. The problem for today’s dealers is this: In an age where the margin is shrinking between the cost to acquire and the retail value of a used vehicle, there’s pressure to revisit the reconditioning costs dealers have traditionally passed along to customers. They can no longer count on the age-old axiom that $1 spent for reconditioning will translate to a $1.25 return.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Three Ways To Win Amid A Declining Wholesale Used Vehicle Market

    Some dealers have taken historically high wholesale used vehicle values for granted. These dealers have eased up on their efforts to quickly retail every used vehicle, knowing that they’ll probably do OK if they decide it’s time to wholesale a unit. At some stores, dealers have realized a profit as they wholesale aged units.

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  • Holding Gross | Used Vehicles

    Time for an “Anti-tax Movement” in the Used Vehicle Industry?

    I would say the answer is “yes” after recent reviews of used vehicle department performance at several dealerships. The tax in question is the pack these dealerships put on their used vehicles. In some cases, this add-on cost for every used car runs nearly $900.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Tools Help Sell Used Cars to Web-savvy Shoppers

    A new arsenal of information technology tools is allowing dealers to welcome Internet-sawy used-car shoppers. That hasn’t always been the case. Too often, dealers and their used-vehicle sales staffs have dreaded the Web-informed consumer.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Turnaround Specialist: A Dealer Shares 5 Secrets Behind His Used Vehicle Success

    “We’re making more net profit in a month now than we used to make in an entire year. That speaks to two things…how bad we were before and how good we are now.” This quote comes from Paul Lynch, the general sales manager at DePaula Chevrolet, Albany, N.Y., who has led an impressive turnaround in the store’s used vehicle department over the past 15 months. Check out some of these results:

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Two Traditional Management Practices That Undermine Used Vehicle Potential

    I’ve long advocated that dealers need to recognize the primacy of the used vehicle department as an engine of growth for sales volumes and profitability across the entire dealership. As a dealer friend puts it, “the used vehicle department is the only department that touches every part of the dealership.

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  • Pricing Profitably | Used Vehicles

    Two Ways To Find The “Sweet Spot” For Your Inventory Turn Rate

    You might call it an annual rite — just as the tulips start to bloom I hear from dealers excited about the start of the spring selling season. This year is no different, as dealers wrapped up March with year-over-year records in used vehicle sales volumes and profitability passed along their positive results.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    vAuto: Beyond Leading Edge Technology

    vAuto is the nation’s fastest growing provider of Internet-based, used vehicle inventory management systems. It was founded in 2005 by auto industry veterans who recognized a need to improve both profit and turn in used vehicle departments throughout the United States.

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  • Department Performance | New Vehicles

    vAuto Helps Tame The New Car Madness: Conquest System Boosts New Vehicle Sales, Margins For Dealers

    I would agree with the dealer who described current conditions in the new vehicle market as madness. In today’s market, you pay good money to acquire a new vehicle from the factory, only to end up retailing it for little or no margin. In fact, your new vehicle department often effectively serves as a loss-leader, wherein the F&I office becomes the primary money-making beneficiary of each retail sale.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    vAuto’s “Mobile-First” Mission Aids On-The-Go Dealers

    vAuto’s development team in Austin faced a difficult challenge in early 2012. The team had just completed the successful launch of vAuto’s Provisioning tool, the automotive industry’s first solution that could accurately tell dealers which cars to buy, what to pay and where to get the used vehicles they needed for their inventories.

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  • Department Performance | Used Vehicles

    Ways to Minimize a Seasonal Slump in Your Used Vehicle Department

    There are three potentially problematic trends for dealers in used vehicles currently. First, inventory levels are climbing. For many dealers, the increases are due to a rise in the number of offlease and trade-in vehicles that flow from new vehicle sales. Some dealers have also chosen to increase inventory levels due to favorable purchase prices and a belief that consumer demand will not abate.

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