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A vAuto Veteran’s View of the Evolution and Importance of Performance Management


This Q&A flows from a recent vAuto podcast that featured guest Chris Hanna, the Associate Vice President of Performance Management at vAuto. Chris, who has been with Cox Automotive for 15 years, shared his insights on the role of performance managers and how they help vAuto dealers achieve greater success. His responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.   


Q: What is the role of a performance manager at vAuto 

 A: A performance manager at vAuto is someone who knows the ins and outs of a car dealership. They have managed either new or used cars and have a comprehensive understanding of how a dealership operates, from retail to wholesale. They take initiative, motivate themselves, and step up to lead. They guide and collaborate, having meaningful discussions about the best possible outcomes. It’s less about command, and more about coaching. 

Q: How does a performance manager build relationships with dealers?  

A: The relationship between a performance manager and a dealer starts with understanding what the other person hopes to get from the relationship and what their objectives might be. As performance managers help dealers achieve their goals, they become trusted partners. They align their suggestions with the dealer’s objectives and understand that there’s always more than one way to get to the finish line. 

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of performance management?  

A: The most challenging aspect of the role is when a customer ends their relationship with us, often due to not seeing the value in our software or the relationship. This is especially difficult when other customers have achieved significant success with our software. When we fail to build a strong relationship with a customer, it feels like a failure on our part. 

Q: How do vAuto Performance Managers differ from those offered by the competition?  

A: vAuto hires knowledgeable people in the car business and aims to be a trusted partner to the dealership. They value the opinion of their performance managers, even on matters unrelated to the products. Unlike competitors where the relationship is more like an account manager, with vAuto the conversation is dealership wide, not just software. 

Q: What is the future of performance management at vAuto?  

A: Several brands in the Cox ecosystem have performance managers, just like vAuto. The goal is to bring these teams together to better understand the depth of the customer’s business and what they’re trying to accomplish, and then have those team members work towards those objectives. This requires shared books of business, where they have common accounts among common team members. 

Q: What guidance do you offer to help dealers get the most out of their Performance Manager relationship?   

A: Clients should be transparent about their dealership goals and foster a relationship of trust. Without understanding the dealer’s objectives, performance managers can’t guide them effectively or assist them in leveraging vAuto’s resources and services to reach their goals. 

Q: Given your experience in the car business and connections with dealers, what’s your view of the current market and where it’s heading?   

A: It seems like the industry today is rapidly returning to the 2018-2019 view. Profitability is still substantially better, but it’s certainly trending down from where it’s been over the past couple of years. As a result, it’s more important than ever for dealers to leverage their performance manager’s expertise and help to address inventory challenges and to understand how to treat individual vehicles to optimize their distinct return on investment potential.  

Q: Last’ve focused part of your career on managing new vehicle inventories. As new vehicle inventories and retail sales grow, what would you consider top priorities for dealers?   

A: New vehicles aren’t as individually unique as used vehicles. So, it’s important for dealers to differentiate their vehicles, and their dealerships, while managing the balance between local market demand and the dealer days supply of specific models and trim lines more effectively. The good news is that the technology and tools to help dealers manage these challenges, particularly in the merchandising arena, have evolved for the better since 2018 and 2019. Conquest remains a top choice for managing new car inventory, going beyond just pricing cars. Its real power lies in the data it provides, helping dealers understand the differences in the cars on their lot and potentially identifying better fits. The focus is on strategic management of inventory, not just pricing actions. 


Closing: Thank you, Chris, we appreciate you taking time for this conversation and helping dealers better understand the role and value vAuto Performance Managers provide, and how this important relationship is evolving.