By Steve Southin, Co-CEO,PAVE
If you aren’t responsible for vehicle inventory management, you may think it is an easy concept, but it is a stressful and labor-intensive endeavor normally bestowed upon one person: The Used Car Manager.
This individual has an encyclopedias worth of knowledge in their heads about profit/loss margins of every vehicle on the lot – a figure that can change at the drop of a hat in the automotive market. They are in and out of meetings with dealership management, they are going to and from auctions, they are dealing with wholesalers, they are evaluating trade vehicles and adjusting inventory prices on an almost constant basis.
The Used Car Manager’s position is extremely demanding. As a result, these individuals need to spend nearly every waking hour working. Most of them wish there were a way to clone themselves or literally add more hours onto the day. Technology may be able to do those things. In a way.
The most time-intensive and least profitable use of time for the Used Car Manager is evaluating potential customer trades as 75% of these evaluations don’t end up in a sale. Using technology that can empower other people to be able to perform the initial vehicle appraisal would free up the Used Car Manager to perform more brain heavy tasks. At the point that a deal is solid, then the Used Car Manager can get involved in order to finalize a vehicle’s value with the Sales Managers. The other 20, 30 or 50 (or more) customers that the sales managers cannot come to an agreement within the box, are going to walk anyways if the trade evaluation isn’t even close.
Consumers, salespeople and business development personnel have been using technology to gather vehicle details and prepare estimates, but it all has to be finalized by the Used Car Manager. This may alleviate some of the pressure, but it would be better if other dealership staff could get a more consistent market value prior to the Used Car Manager being involved regardless of whether the customer is at home or at the dealership. Technology that includes market data would be ideal.
Consumers usually use dated technology to get estimates on their trades before they even contact a dealership. These standard Q and A style tools are all void of detail and salespeople and managers are put in an awkward position where they have to fight against a phantom value from a tool that could just as easily been one that the customer went to on their own or the one that is on the dealership’s website. Designing an experience where the consumer can be more involved with the evaluation process would be the ultimate ‘next level’ for these evaluation tools.
Something that allows salespeople or BDC agents to process trades before the visit would be beneficial as well because it would design an experience that would help the salesperson build better customer relationships and provide a more seamless and timelier sales experience in combination with the Sales Managers or Used Car Managers. In addition, it avoids one of the biggest things that creates dissention in your organization – the Used Car Manager versus the Sales Manager. Take this for example: The Used Car Manager manages to “steal” a used car – whether that be from auction or a trade-in – and is just waiting for that car to be sold with a great front end. The sales manager certainly also wants that huge front-end gross but sometimes they will deep discount the used car because there is a large front end just to sell a new car. Maybe it’s because the new car is an aged unit, maybe it is because there is a stair step program or maybe it is the OEM pushing certain models.
The bottom line is that the sales managers control the sales “deal” for the most part while the Used Car Manager’s success in the dealer and General Manager’s eyes is how much gross profit is made from used car inventory on the front-end of the deal. If everyone in sales in the dealership is on the same page, using the same inspection process and judging a vehicle’s condition and value, much of that contention will dissipate. Not all, mind you, but it will improve. And don’t even get me started on the two of them against the Service Department with recon charges. That would be a whole separate blog.
Your Used Car Manager could be doing much more important things for the dealership that result in profit. It seems like such a waste of time and talent to have all the dealership’s vehicle inspections fall onto their plate. Technology has always helped Used Car Managers, but the latest digital revolution has shed light on how much more that could be done for them. A combination of consistent reporting (including images) with fluctuating market data and a human’s opinion can make a dealership more efficient in not only remote appraisals by a customer but also with salespeople starting the process using technology.
One of the many things that salespeople are taught is to do a walk-around on the trade and “devalue” it – here’s a ding. There’s a scratch, etc. This can create an adversarial position between the customer and the salesperson when they go into the box to work numbers back and forth with the “man behind the one-way window and lose trust in the salesperson.
The used car manager should be spending their time making the dealership money. That is not something they can do if they are single handedly responsible for finalizing trade offers and evaluations. In addition, oftentimes sales managers are promoted because they were great salespeople – not because they were great at knowing how to buy cars – simply relying on data in industry powerhouse trade-evaluation told which can have values that vary by thousands of dollars.
About the Author
Steve and his 25+ years of automotive retail and wholesale experience deliver in-depth domain knowledge that was essential in his focus as PAVE’s creator and product architect. Steve also has 15+ years of technical and startup expertise that he gained as an Autotech entrepreneur, with his second recent successful exit being the Bumper App, which he brought to market in 2012 and successfully exited through an acquisition by Vicimus Inc. in 2017.