The term “front–line ready” has evolved during my 25 years in the car business. In the past, it meant having the car on the lot, physically ready to be seen by shoppers. Today, we must think about front–line ready as a combination of physical reconditioning, inventory management and digital merchandising, as almost all car shopping now starts online. As dealerships, we need to create cohesive and equally weighted strategies; we cannot operate in silos anymore. To get the process started, I’ve outlined three tips for integrating effective reconditioning, into the used car inventory management process.
Know Your Inventory
The first step in successful inventory management is to keep track of your vehicles. The data is your secret weapon, giving you the information to make smart, informed decisions. Every decision should be based on what is best for your inventory.
Nobody knows your cars, your people and your business like you do. What does your team sell the best? What vehicles do you need more of? These are the questions you should be considering to remain effective and successful. Identify your most productive pieces of inventory and focus on stocking more of those vehicles. Don’t waste valuable storage space and money on slow–selling cars. Instead, have a plan to replenish your bestselling models.
Know Your Vendors
To be successful in today’s used car business, you need two integrated systems: one for managing the reconditioning process and one for managing inventory. Gone are the days of having “a guy” to handle it all for you. The changing landscape of the auto industry doesn’t allow for a one-person approach. A good piece of software is one that is constantly evolving based on real-time feedback, addressing the needs of dealers like you.
Pay as much, or even more, attention to your vendors as you do your inventory. Get to know them and their capabilities, making sure they are providing efficient and quality service. Their ability to impact your bottom line is bigger than ever before. Ensure your vendors can repeat their output at a consistent, high level. A vendor that requires too much hand–holding or guidance can directly impact your ability to sell and stock inventory correctly.
Begin With the Goal in Mind
Always start knowing where you want to finish, then take the steps to get there. Older inventory can quickly eat into your profits by preventing you from bringing in new stock and by increasing your carrying costs. Managing it properly will help you avoid these pitfalls and increase your profit margin. Make smart decisions to avoid slow-moving vehicles when possible.
If you’re already dealing with aged stock on your lot, consider changing up your merchandising tactics for these vehicles in order to meet your end goal. Try moving the vehicles to a more prominent location on your lot, add new visuals and group them with fast–moving products. Before showing a discount on a vehicle, try remerchandising it online to help grab a car shopper’s interest. For example, incorporate reconditioning details in your descriptions to differentiate your listings and provide the transparency that shoppers are looking for.
Constantly look for room to improve and fine–tune your reconditioning process. Identify what’s going right, call out the wins and use them to motivate your team (employees and vendors), but also keep them accountable. Similarly, diagnose problem areas and potential pitfalls. Use the data to help you execute on decisions that will get you to your end goal.