Car Dealer Insider Mar 1, 2008
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Car Dealer Insider Mar 1, 2008

Shifting gears: dealers crank up focus on special finance and used vehicle service retention

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Shifting gears: dealers crank up focus on special finance and used vehicle service retention

Optimistic is the last adjective to describe most dealers at the recent NADA Convention. Even if the economy does rebound a bit in the second half of the year as now predicted, it'll still be a long, tough road with numerous obstacles. But dealers are a resilient bunch and every one we spoke with in San Francisco had some sort of plan of attack in place or at least one in mind to help weather more uncertainty.

It's not just the mega-dealers that have viable solutions. Small dealers we spoke with also told us of ways they're boosting business, cutting expenses, and in some cases even expanding their domestic franchises.

Not surprisingly, most dealers told _Car Dealer Insider they're relying more heavily on their used vehicle and fixed operations departments. Even dealers and managers in stronger U.S. markets are focusing on niches that can give them an edge.

Mark Rehkopf, a VP and general manager with the Russell & Smith Automotive Group in Houston, a market that's been somewhat insulated economy-wise due to the oil industry, is one of them. As the GM of R&S's Honda and Mazda stores, he also oversees variable operations for the Ford business.

"Good market, bad market, I'm trying to increase my share…It's easier to increase business in a down market than an up market," says Mark. Those who increase share while the competition is cutting back will be stronger when the market rebounds, he notes.

"There are a couple of ways out of this. Everyone is working on cutting expenses. We're trying to increase gross. It's great if you can do both," says Mark, who adds that his heart goes out to dealers in more economically troubled areas. His big focus has been special finance (a.k.a. credit challenged) customers. And he's done a 180 recently to help boost that business.

Special finance shift... (312 of 1248 words)

Also in this Issue:

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  • Live chat and video e-mails give dealership business a big boost (613 words)
  • News You Can Use: Dates to Save, Trends to Watch (217 words)
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  • Trend Spotting (244 words)
  • Warranty payments to car dealers expected to trend down in 2008 (546 words)