Quantcast
Jump to content
Joe Marconi

Article: New Car Sales Are Up! Prepare Or Beware?

Recommended Posts

As the economy recovers, new car sales will increase. The aging US fleet, which was predicted to be a boom for repair shops, never really materialized as we thought it would. As an industry, independent repair shops survived and some faired quite well. Just not to the extent that many of us predicted. That’s not to say we did not have opportunity, we did. However, as we painfully found out, when people are out of work, feel poor, and when consumer confidence is low, it makes our job a lot more difficult. Shops owners were put to the test and proved to be both resourceful and resilient during the great recession. Shop owners will be challenged once again, very soon.

Consumers are returning to the new car show rooms. That 220,000 mile, 12 year old Ford Taurus, your customer has been driving, has seen better days. It’s time to go car shopping. Around the country dealership are preparing for the surge in sales and we, as repair shop owners, need to prepare also. Why? Consumers will see and experience a different breed for new car dealerships. Many new car dealers are starting to “get it.” The economic climate in the U.S., along with stiff competition from Europe and Asia resulted in many casualties, resulting in a steep decline in new-car dealership numbers, particularly among the Big Three. But just as in the wild, the thinning of the heard is good news for those new car dealers that survived.

 

New car dealers and car makers understand, better than ever, that the service department can have a decided influence in future new car sales. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a GM spokesman stated that when consumers use the dealer for their scheduled maintenance, those consumers are twice as likely to purchase another GM car. Plus, no one car maker dominates the market to the degree where their dealership can solely rely on car sales as their only income stream. Income from the service department and parts department are crucial to today’s dealership model.

 

Marketing programs and strategy, such as Toyota Care, and other free maintenance plans will continue and most likely spread to most car companies. The aim is to lock-in the customer to the dealership through the service department, which hopefully will reduce the defection rate that was so prevalent in years past. Just do a search of your own database and you will find many of your customers who have not returned to you since purchasing or leasing new cars because of perceived “Free Maintenance.”

 

New car dealerships across the country are also undergoing remolding and restructuring. Improvements will be made in not only increasing dealership physical size, new equipment and appearance, but changes to the service area as well. This is all geared toward enhancing the customer experience. Some average sized dealerships will be transformed into mega-dealers. The overall goal: To capture as much of their prospective market as possible.

 

Should you be concerned? Well, you should. This is not to say that I think all the dealers will become so powerful that they will knock us into oblivion. Most dealers will make all the cosmetic improvements, make all the attempts at the delivering great customer service, and pour tons of money into their dealerships. And most of them will fail at making a difference. The reason? Ultimately, the car makers and car dealerships want to sell new cars. And that makes them vulnerable. If the heart and culture of the company is truly not in line with the customer and maintaining their car, no plan will fully work. Only those dealerships that truly give up the notion of buy and replace a car every few years, will make an impact.

 

So, what do we do about this? The first thing is not to bury your head in the sand and fall prey to that old adage that the dealers don’t know what the heck they are doing and that none of your customers would ever think of going back to the dealer for service, especially after the warranty period. That may have been true in 1990, not anymore.

 

The perception of the new car dealer is slowly changing and people are also economically tired. One of the reasons why they will buy a new car is because they are tired of putting money into that old clunker. Car makers and salesmen will continue to campaign their propaganda that these new rocket ships on wheels need very little maintenance and because they are so complicated, the dealer is your “best” choice.

 

More propaganda will be from “free maintenance”, and will help to condition the consumer that not much is needed on their car. Why will the consumer believe this? It’s because for the first few years not much WAS done if they went back to the dealer for service.

 

Now let’s add extended oil services into the mix. It wasn’t long ago that our goal for customer retention was to see a customer’s vehicle about 4 to 5 times per year. That was when the accepted oil service interval was anywhere from 3 to 5,000 miles. Take a look at the new car service intervals today; 7,500 to 10,000 will soon be the norm. This will no doubt cause a decrease in car counts and revenue for many shops.

 

In spite of all this, we the independent shop owners have the edge. We were the first to understand that we thrive because we are part of the community. We were the first to understand that our customers come to us because we are genuinely interested in their welfare. There are no ulterior motives at play. We don’t sell new cars and we don’t sell car parts. Rather, we look to extend the life of our customer’s cars and promote preventive maintenance which ultimately lowers the overall cost of owning an automobile.

 

We also understand that our customers come to us because of who we are. People come to us not because of a particular brand name. This is our greatest strength. It must drive new car dealer’s nuts that we can be so successful without any brand name like Toyota, Ford or GM hanging over our bays. Yes, this is our greatest attribute. We survive and thrive because of who we are.

 

The new car dealers are coming after our business. That’s a fact and we all know it. Those of you who don’t heed the warning will be in trouble. This is my fear. Those of you who continue doing business the same way you did yesterday will also be in trouble. Earlier I spoke of the thinning of the heard. I am afraid that this may also happen with many of our colleagues if we don’t plan and prepare today.

 

Never forget that it’s you who will make the difference. If you’ve gotten this far with all that has happened the last few years, my bet is on you. See you in the future!

 

 

 

Click here to view the article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


We allow visitors to read the first post of each topic. To read this post, please login or register for a membership. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites



  • Similar Topics

    • By Elite Worldwide Inc.
      Let’s say you’re looking to hire a superstar technician. You find one who has a proven track record of success, and put them through a well-constructed interview process. You decide that the person sitting in front of you is the perfect fit, and you make them a formal job offer in hopes that they will agree to join your team. They agree, and for the first time in a while you’re able to sleep throughout the night, because you know you’ve done your due diligence, and have finally found the top tech you’ve so desperately been needing.  All good so far, right?
      Your new hire comes to work on Monday, and you’re off to a great start. And then…. it happens. Within the first few weeks you start to get the sinking feeling that you may have hired the wrong person. There’s no question that they can fix cars the right way, and they do it quickly. They also show up every day on time, and they keep their workplace clean. The problem is, they don’t follow your procedures very well. Your key employees are telling you that the new guy seems to complain quite a bit about meaningless things, and they’re sad to report that he’s not very social either. 
      You start to hope that he’ll either “adjust or come around”, or that he’s just dealing with some personal issues that will soon pass. But after a month or two you reach the inevitable conclusion – this guy doesn’t like to follow rules, he has an attitude that doesn’t fit well in your shop, and your other employees are not very pleased that he’s working with you. After many sleepless nights, you decide to let him go, and you start the process all over again. 
      Unfortunately, many shop owners live in this world of high employee turnover, or end up telling themselves that they’d rather keep someone who’s not a good fit than run the risk of simply swapping out one bad employee for another. If this sounds all too familiar to you, then consider this:
      The trap most shop owners fall into is they hire people for what they know, and they end up firing them… for who they are.  
      To put it another way, shop owners often hire people for their skills, and they fire them for their behavior. So, the best-kept secret to hiring superstar techs and advisors?  It’s going a step beyond learning about their skills and experience, and learning more about who they are as a person. As someone who has grown some of the most successful shops in America, I’ve learned over the years that in order to hire top employees that my entire team will really enjoy working with, I have to pay very close attention to their personalities and behaviors during the interview process. I do that to this day with Elite, and it’s been one of the most important keys to my hiring success. However, I also know that my perception of someone’s personality will only take me so far, so I have every applicant complete a 45-minute online behavioral assessment before the first interview.  Here’s why.
      An assessment can tell us whether an applicant has the propensity to follow rules, how social they are, their level of optimism, how open they are to constructive feedback, and a whole lot more. Not only do these assessments help us conclude whether the applicant is even someone we should interview, but they also give us direction on where we should dig deeper, and the questions we should ask during the interviews. For example, if the assessment suggests they are not very social, then you know you need to ask questions about how they worked with others in the past so you can discover if there were personality conflicts, ego issues, etc. If the assessment suggests they have a propensity to ignore rules and procedures, you can ask them specific questions about how they inspected and repaired cars, and how they interacted with the advisors. 
      So here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. First, think about the people you’ve fired. Hopefully it hasn’t been many, but I suspect you will discover that with rare exception, the reason you fired them had little to do with their skills, but was because of who they were as a person or how they behaved. Secondly, I’m going to ask that you accept the fact that there are many behaviors (and propensities) that will show up on behavioral assessments that you or I would never be able to detect during an interview, no matter how thorough we may be. And lastly, consider that if you do the math, hiring the wrong person is going to cost you at least $5,000.
      If you now agree that you need to dig deep and learn more about who the person really is before you hire them, you need to do what Fortune 500 companies and the top shop owners in America do, and have every applicant complete a behavioral assessment before the first interview. There are many companies that provide such services, such as Predictive Index, Berke, and Myers-Briggs, to name a few. We use Berke, and have been quite pleased. 
      If you do begin assessing the people you may hire, then you have my promise: You’ll have a much higher probability of hiring the techs and advisors that your other employees will enjoy working with, they’ll follow your rules, and you’ll be able to go to sleep at night knowing you have an incredible team…of superstars.

      “Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers the industry’s #1 peer group of 90 successful shop owners, training and coaching from top shop owners, service advisor training, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548."

      View full article
    • By Joe Marconi
      My son was an accomplished wrestler in high school, competing in the New York State Championships. He continued competing during his college years. At a major tournament, in which my son was ranked No. 1, the coached worried about his first match. In tournaments, the No. 1 ranked wrestler competes against the bottom-ranked wrestler in the first round. When I asked the coach why he worried about the bottom-ranked opponent, the coach replied, “Tough competition keeps you sharp. Weaker competition makes you complacent.” 
      In business, as in sports, complacency occurs when you fail to recognize the strengths of your competition—even if the competition is considered weaker than you. Complacency is caused by many reasons. It could be the result of being successful, which gives you a false sense of security that the good days will continue forever. Or, it could be that the business owner is so entrenched in the day-to-day operations that he fails to recognize the world around him. Complacency also lowers your drive and your focus. It spreads to your employees. Eventually, this will have a detrimental effect on your business. 
      However, loss of business due to complacency doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow, painful death. One day you realize that your car counts are down, your customer base is dwindling and your new customer acquisition is declining too.
      Today, consumers have choice and competition is fierce. Every segment of the auto repair industry wants a piece of the service and repair pie. You need to take a long hard look at your competition, analyze it and study it. Then build a strategy around what you bring to the marketplace that will set you apart from the rest. 
      One thing to keep in mind: In the business world, competition is everywhere. And it’s not just other repair shops, dealerships or the tire store down the road. Your business is being judged and compared to by every experience the consumer encounters. In other words, if your customer had an amazing experience at a local restaurant, your business will be judged against that experience, too. But the question is: How should you compete? 
      In his book The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin makes the point that your business needs to be so remarkable, people will stop in their tracks to learn more about you. To make the cow comparison: Cows are essentially boring. They really don’t stand out. But, if you’re driving down a road and see a purple cow in a field, you’ll more than likely stop your car to take a closer look. Now ask yourself: Is your business boring? Does it have the look and feel as every other repair shop in town? What can you do to make your business so remarkable, so different, that people will stop in their tracks and take notice? This is a powerful marketing strategy. 
      No matter how successful your business may be, it’s wise to look at all prominent businesses in your area. Find out who they are, how they market themselves and what makes them stand out. Then, create a strategy that differentiates your business from the rest. By the way, never compete with another business by copying what it does or by the benefits it offers. Copying the competition is what many businesses do, and it’s a mistake. Studying the competition is more about learning what they do, and then finding out what makes you different. What can your business bring to the marketplace that will make people take notice? Think about the company Harley Davidson. When you drive a Harley Davidson, you drive a Harley. It’s not a motorcycle—it’s a Harley. Harley Davidson is a brand so strong, people will actually tattoo the Harley logo on their bodies. Consider Starbucks. People don’t say, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee.” They say, “I’m going to get a Starbucks.” These two companies have a unique brand identity. They stand out among the rest. 
      Competition is a good thing. It makes you stronger. It makes the entire business world better. It forces you to think about yourself and your brand. And by improving your brand, the customer benefits also improve, which, in turn, makes your business more successful. Never fear competition; rather, you should embrace it. Learn from it. But, remember, look for ways to set you apart from other businesses. 
      One last thing: Don’t focus on what you do. We all essentially do the same thing—oil services, brake work, suspension, tires and more. Think about why you are in business. It’s your culture. Think about what makes you special and communicate that to your customers and potential customers. Make that special something your purple cow. 
      By the way, my son took first place in that tournament. Although every match was a challenge, the two toughest matches were the final round and (you guessed it) his first match against a weaker opponent.
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 31st, 2019


      View full article
    • By Joe Marconi
      There’s a lot of talk these days about the effect Amazon is having on businesses. Even Google has taken a hit. More and more people simply go straight to Amazon, instead of using Google’s search engine when looking for an item or product. Once-dominant brick and mortar stores are now ramping up to compete with Amazon’s online ordering service. Just look what Amazon did to the book industry. There is no doubt that Amazon has changed the way the typical consumer buys and searches for just about anything. 
      But, can Amazon ever really become a major competitor with us; the independent repair shop? My conclusion is no. Let me tell you why.
      It was the Saturday before Christmas, roughly 12 years ago. A man walked in my shop, visibly upset and holding an old Lionel train transformer. I asked him if I could help him, and he replied, “I was wondering if you could check out this transformer. This transformer has been in my family for over 50 years. Each year the family gets together to decorate the Christmas tree and set up the Lionel Trains. It’s a tradition we started a long time ago.” 
      I stood before him a little confused, not really knowing what to say. Finally I replied, “Sir, I repair cars, not toy train transformers.” Getting more upset, he said, “Toy train transformer? This is a rare, vintage Lionel Duel Transformer, Type ZW!” I replied back, “OK; no promises. Let me take a look”
      I set the transformer on the back bench and plugged the cord it into an outlet. The man frantically said, “See, there’s no light; it’s not working!” I turned the transformer over, and took the screws out to disassemble it. The man watched me as if I were a surgeon operating on his child. I poked around a bit and inspected the cord leading inside. I could clearly see a break in the wire. I cut the wire, stripped it back, attached the wire back to the terminals and reassembled the transformer. I plugged it in and the power light came on. “It working! It’s working!” the man said. He thanked me over and over and asked me what he owed me, and I told him, “It’s Christmas; just become my customer.” And he did. 
      Another time, a young woman in her early twenties and her father came to me with an unusual problem. I could see that the daughter was crying and the father was trying to console her. The daughter told me that she was recently engaged. As she was driving this morning, her friend reached over and tried to take off the ring. As she pulled her hand back, the ring came off and flew across the top of the dashboard and disappeared. The father said, “Joe, could it have gone down the defroster vents?” I said, “It’s possible, but if you didn’t see where it went, it’s going to be a big job to find it.” The girl began to cry again and said, “Please, can you get the ring back?” I looked at her and said, “Sure, it will take time. It’s almost the end of the day. Let me clear up a few things and I’ll get to it.”
      About an hour later, I brought the car in and begin taking apart the dash. The father and daughter stood there watching me as I carefully took apart the dash, piece by piece. After 40 minutes I had just about every piece of the dashboard apart, and no ring. I climbed out from under the dash to take a break and asked the daughter, “Are you sure the ring landed on top of the dash and disappeared?” She replied, “Yes, I’m sure. It has to be there. It must!” 
      I went back to work, removing more parts of the dash. I finally got down to the lower center of the dash where the ducts split off and go to the floor vents. As I removed the left side floor vent, I heard a rattling sound. I carefully picked it up, turned it over and out came the ring! The daughter burst into tears and laughter and gave me a big hug. The father told me, “Joe, I will never forget this—never.”
      These two stories are true. And I’ll bet a year’s pay that you have similar stories. Each day, we put our hearts and souls into helping people. We create a customer experience that sets us apart from most other businesses. We go above and beyond what’s expected of us, and we succeed. 
      Let me ask you; could the “Amazon effect” ever compete with you? The only effect you should focus on is the effect you have on your customers and your community. This will always be your competitive advantage. Use it wisely. 
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on July 1st, 2019


      View full article
    • By Joe Marconi
      Roughly a month ago, two events happened on the same day that reminded me that there are things that are so precious, you cannot put a price on them. Those events also reminded me that some of the things we stress over, really aren’t as important as we think. And in the end, it all comes down to the importance of life itself.  
      I got a call that day from Paul, the person who picks up our scrap metal. He asked if he could speak to me in private. Now, being a seasoned business owner, that’s usually not a good sign. But, this had nothing to do with business. I met Paul in my office a few hours later. He appeared very uncomfortable and upset. After exchanging a few words about business and the weather, he told me that his brother died last year. He was one of three other brothers that died within the past five years. He went on to tell me that none of his brothers had any savings or insurance, so it was up to him to take care of all the burial expenses for all the brothers. As Paul spoke, I could see that he was emotionally drained. Then he said to me, “Joe, I really hate to ask you this. I am tapped out. I cannot support all my financial obligations at this time. Would it be possible to lend me the money to purchase the gravestone for my brother? You can make the check out directly to the gravestone company, not to me.”
      I have known Paul a long time. He’s one of those hard-working, tough-talking guys that you would never imagine asking for a handout. I didn’t hesitate and wrote out the check and handed it to him. He held back the tears as he shook my hand and told me, “Joe, I will never forget this, and I will pay you back.”
      About an hour later, the owner of a local tow company walked into my office manager’s office to pick up a check we owed him for last month’s tows. I wasn’t paying much attention until I overheard my office manager say, “Oh, my God, I am sorry, Dave. I didn’t even know you were sick.” Dave is 42 years old, married with kids, and has brain cancer that is not responding to treatment.
      Dave has a great attitude, but understands the reality of his illness. He’s doing his best while on the treatment, but admitted that, some days, he finds it hard to function. He told us how he started his tow company right out of high school and has worked hard his entire life. As he was leaving, I told him to reach out to us if he needs anything. He told me prayer might help. I told him I would do that.
      Before the two events that day, I was dealing with a few business problems. And I need to be honest: I was not in the best of moods. After speaking to Paul and Dave, those issues that seemed so daunting before, didn’t seem all that important anymore. I sat back in my chair, looked over at a photo of my grandkids on my desk, and told myself that I need to do a better job at arranging life’s priorities.
      As shop owners, we get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of running a business—sometimes at a cost to our families, friends and ourselves. We anguish over bad online reviews, disgruntled employees, slow days and declining car counts. We sometimes find it hard to sleep at night, reflecting over and over again in our minds, the problems of the day. And we repeat this cycle over and over, year after year. Let me tell you, no business issue is ever all that serious that it cannot be overcome. But, when life throws you a curveball, as in the case with Paul and Dave, those problems are not so easily overcome.
      There are many reasons why each of us go into business. For many of us, it’s the passion for the work we do. For others, it’s the burning desire to improve the automotive industry. While I cannot say that we are in perfect alignment in every area of business, I do know one thing with certainty: We all need to stop and reflect from time to time on all the things that have nothing to do with business, but everything to do with life itself. Those are the things that no amount of money can ever buy. Those are the things that are priceless.
      This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on June 1st, 2019


      View full article
    • By Joe Marconi
      The days of cars breaking down and lining up in front of your bays on a daily basis are long gone. Today, we need to be proactive. Now I know many of you are having a great summer in terms of sales, but don't rely on this to keep you going the rest of the year.
       
      Here's a tip to keep in mind: Every car in your shop today will need a future service and/or repair in the future. The question is, "Will the customer go back to you?"
       
      Here's what you do: Make it a practice that you inform all customers in for service today of their next service and/or any future repair they may need. Let them know you will add their vehicle to your calendar and send them a card/email as a reminder. But here's the deal-sealer. Let them know you will call them also when the vehicle is due.
       
      Afraid that customers might see this as too pushy? Don't be. If done properly and if you convey that what you are recommending is in their best interest, they will listen.
       
      Will every customer return? No. But how many will if you leave it to chance?
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors



×
×
  • Create New...