The Used Car Business IS the Internet Business
San Diego Monday and Tuesday was a great location for the Auto Remarketing CPO Forum, The Certified Conference. I was fortunate enough to be invited to be on a panel of Dealers speaking on Inventory Management and being as this was a one room conference I got to see everyone’s presentations…so here’s my unofficial review of what you missed if you weren’t there.
First to present was Arianne Walker from J.D. Power Automotive Remarketing who had lots of great information on the customer awareness as well as motivators to purchase a Certified Pre Owned Vehicle. A couple stats I found interesting were almost 80% of CPO buyers set out to purchase a CPO vehicle and 42% of people found the exact car they purchased online. On a customer service note, not explaining all fees and charges created the biggest drop in satisfaction.
Next up was the panel I was on which included Howard Hakes from Hitchcock Automotive Group, Kevin Nachbar from McCarthy Auto Group and myself. The discussion was inventory management and quickly became how technology has taken over as the driver of used vehicle management. Each of us is on different inventory management software but agree it’s what you do with the information not the information that breeds success. Digital advertising was the choice of marketing with 14-25 pictures as the norm. It’s going to be an interesting ride as supply tightens even further in the next 18 months, get ready to have to inflate your game!
Finishing off Monday’s sessions was Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura’s Brian Benstock, who is quickly becoming known as Tier 10 Marketing’s premier client and interruption marketing specialist. Brian happens to be one hell of a Certified Pre Owned player as well selling double his next competitor. Brian told a humbled journey of becoming a premier Velocity Dealer as well as taking the steps to change the reputation of the store not only digitally where they monitor reviews but physically in his stores. They now no longer look for old school sharks or plaid suited mythical car guys of days past but hire “nice people” whom “you would let babysit your kids” which was a great takeaway for an interview thought to have in your head. We did get subjected to some Tier 10 spam at the end of the presentation, but Brian shared his experiences freely and has an amazing story to share.
Tuesday’s sessions got started with a keynote discussion from Doug Hadden of AAX, David Nelson of First Look and one of my mentors Dale Pollak of vAuto. The 3 men on this forum although representing the 3 major competitors in the inventory management segment presented as complete professionals with nobody with the agenda of pitching a product. All agree, “The Used Car business is the Internet business.” All mentioned online marketing with great pictures and compelling accurate descriptions. Dale spoke of “strategies, people and process” as being key factors to CPO success. David wanted dealers to described Certified Vehicle programs “in a manner your mom would understand.” Doug challenged dealers to give up the “3 G’s of inventory management” or ‘Gamble, Guess and Gut” and use the technology available to make educated inventory decisions. Overall an informative session leaving dealers with Dale’s question of “Are you operating with happenstance inventory or engineered inventory?”
Matt McKenna from AutoTrader.com gave a stat filled presentation and with 57% of online consumers looking for sales and 47% using coupons, I’d say his statement that “Savvy is the new status symbol” is a reality. A great takeaway from his presentation was that although consumers perceived value of certification was between $1750- $2300 the majority or roughly 70% believe certification is a dealer program not a manufacturer program.
Brad Mugg and Chad Lemieux from Norm Reeves Honda shared some of their experiences with online inventory acquisition as well as marketing. Spending $1200-$1500 per Certified Vehicle for reconditioning was the average quote by all the dealers on panels which proved true in Cerritos as well. Having management buy in and participation was stressed as important to significant pre owned sales.
Charlie Vogelheim of Intellichoice presented awards to Mini and Volvo for their Certified Pre Owned programs in classic mustached form for “moovember”, a great Program where people grow mustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer. I think that raising awareness is great.mustaches? Not my gig, but mustaches = funny, so a win for Vogelheim.
Ira Gabriel from MotorTrend, David DeCredico represented Independent Certified Used Cars programs from Apco/EasyCare and a woman whose name I didn’t write down, was a change in the program I’m using for notes so I apologize for leaving out. These programs are in the early development stages but fill a void for those dealers abandoned by factories and those looking to Certify all their vehicles not just those covered by the manufacturer they represent.
I’ve got to leave out the last 2 presentations (you’re probably happy if you’re still reading) because I skipped out on the last hour and a half to go shop for gifts for my kids before going to dinner with some folks from Adesa Auto Auctions whom I’d like to thank for making sure I was fed well while in San Diego both evenings.
Bill Zadeits from Auto Remarketing did an excellent job moderating the discussions, the venue was virtually sales free, the networking was great with lots of OEM’s represented and heavy industry players all sharing great knowledge and first hand experiences. This conference will be on my schedule next year for sure, having a passion for Certified Used Vehicle sales and understanding “The Used Car Business is the Internet Business” this conference fit me well.