Best Practices

How much insufficient training is costing dealerships

ATLANTA - 

The data points Cox Automotive found through its dealership staffing study are startling.

Stores have a 67-percent annual turnover rate among its sales teams, and the average cost of hiring a new dealership employee is $10,000.

Perhaps one of the primary reasons dealerships are burdened by those personnel challenges is connected to training — or the lack of it. The anecdotes shared by Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive, paint a grim picture.

During a phone conversation before the study was released this week, Helms told Auto Remarketing, “One person said, ‘I assisted with a salesperson for one week and then they threw me out to the sharks.’”

“Another one said, ‘Training? Huh? I was required to complete all online ‘training’ mandated by the OEM and the dealer. Otherwise there’s never any training,’” Helms continued.

The 2017 Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing research was conducted on behalf of Cox Automotive by KS&R with consultation from Hireology. The study was fielded among a random representative sample of 50 dealer owners, principals and general managers through an online discussion about their current dealership staffing practices and challenges.

The project also included 343 dealership employees through an online quantitative survey about their experience as a dealership employee as well as 834 U.S. general population also through an online quantitative survey about their opinions about working at a dealership.

Helms suspected the project would highlight the stereotypical challenges about working at a dealership — long hours during a six-day workweek while being compensated mainly by commission. However, Helms emphasized it was the training component that she thought impacted dealerships most, especially since it’s possible that the quality of worker support could be improved.

“We know there are dealerships out there, in particular the more progressive dealerships, the larger dealer groups, that have formal training programs in place. Those are the ones who should be modeled. But for the most part we saw a huge absence in training,” Helms said.

Beyond the sales team churn and the cost of hiring new employees, Helms also noted how workforce issues can cause other problems for stores, including planning for long-term objectives.

“Many dealers are having to think about the future. They’re thinking about how they’re going to have to evolve and create a dealership of the future,” she said. “When you’re constantly focused on retaining your staff, or bringing on board new staff, that leaves very little time to really think about how you’re going to evolve your model and how you’re going to set up your dealership to compete.”

Furthermore, Helms also mentioned how customer loyalty can erode if buyers seeing new people working at the dealership each time they make a purchase or come in for service.

“Once you create a rapport with someone at the dealership, you expect that person to be there,” Helms said. “Loss of customer loyalty can be a factor because we know from research that the two more important factors that go against a positive customer experience at the dealership; it’s the sales staff followed by F&I staff.

“If you’re having turnover in those two areas in particular, your customer loyalty tends to sustain a significant impact,” she added.

The study showed turnover within the F&I office is lower than the store’s sales department — 38 percent versus that 67 percent figure. But overall, dealerships are sustaining a 40-percent turnover rate across all department.

And referencing back to that $10,000 average that it costs to a hire a new employee, “You can do the math quickly. If you’re experiencing 40 percent turnover at your dealership, that runs up pretty quickly,” Helms said.

Yet one other potential pitfall for employee churn: Helms pointed out that maintaining and refining operational efficiencies might not happen to the degree ownership would like.

“If you’re constantly rolling in new employees, you don’t have the chance to build processes into the business and find the opportunity where you can improve,” she said.

With so much at stake — both financially and with non-tangible costs — Cox Automotive’s study also included some thoughts for dealerships to consider, including:

— Look at your culture and pay plans and make changes where necessary.

— Review your hiring process to properly assess talent, accelerate early relationships with managers and peers and share information about career opportunities in your organization.

— Make sure your development plans support performance expectations.

“My hope by conducting this research is we’ll be able to change people’s opinion about what it’s like to work in the automotive industry, in particular, dealerships,” Helms said. “It’s an exciting new world. The world at dealerships is changing significantly. We need the next generation of workers to embrace looking at this industry differently.”

EFG commentary: Another turn of the screw by the CFPB

DALLAS - 

On July 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule banning companies from denying arbitration to groups of people. And, if everything passes, the law should go into effect in September. For auto retail dealers and lenders, this change is just one more turn of the screw clamping down on the ability to do business.

The new ruling stipulates that auto dealers and their lending partners will still be able to include arbitration clauses in their contracts. But those clauses may not be used to prevent consumers from joining a class action lawsuit. The rule specifies the language that must be used in the contract. Companies are also required to submit detailed information to the CFPB about claims and awards made in arbitration. That data eventually will be made public, with consumer names and identifying data removed. It’s no wonder dealers and lenders are feeling like Big Brother is looking over their shoulders.

Shaun Petersen, vice president of legal and government affairs with the National Independent Auto Dealers Association (NIADA) recently joined the EFG Companies Common Sense Compliance podcast and shared some thoughts on how this ruling might impact dealers in the future.

“While the original purpose of the CFPB was to ‘root out’ unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, supervise companies, and enforce laws,” Petersen said, “the bureau has certainly had its eye on the automotive market. While there are certainly some bad actors, the majority of auto dealers and lenders are trying to help the consumer. This additional ruling complicates these efforts.”

“This rule will force small businesses to bear additional costs in defending class-action litigation, particularly meritless suits,” Petersen continued. “Those costs will ultimately be borne by consumers, and in the case of those who are credit-challenged, it could prove to be too much.”

Petersen outlined some of the steps the NIADA is taking to work with key members of Congress to oppose the ruling. “From the outset of this rulemaking process, NIADA has voiced concern about the poor policy reflected in this proposal to both the CFPB and to members of Congress,” Petersen said. “As Congress considers CFPB reform, we will be urging lawmakers to overturn this anti-consumer rule.”

In the meantime, Petersen encouraged dealers and lenders alike to review their contract language, as well as any other materials which discuss the consumer’s rights to contract arbitration.  “The ruling is scheduled to take effect Sept. 18,” Petersen elaborated. “While we continue to work with members of the House and Senate to oppose this ruling, we also don’t want dealers and lenders to be caught flat footed.”

Compliance is certainly a growing challenge for auto dealers and their lending partners. When entities such as the CFPB issue wide-ranging rulings, it’s no wonder that dealer principles, F&I teams and lenders throw up their hands in frustration. How can you manage the pressure from this latest turn of the compliance screw? Stick to your compliance checklist and leverage available resources from industry associations and providers. And turn the screw back toward your favor.

As vice president of compliance at EFG Companies, Steve Roennau utilizes his extensive industry experience to provide EFG clients a sophisticated analysis of their current compliance procedures and proactively prepare them for upcoming changes in federal and state regulations. Steve is an AFIP Senior Certified Professional in Financial Services, and has developed compliance training modules in the areas of adverse action, privacy rule, risk-based pricing/exception notice, red flag rule, safeguards rule, deceptive practices, and federal and state regulations. In addition, he has conducted several compliance courses, including compliance workshop for dealership managers; AFIP prep course for F&I producers; and, F&I compliance training for F&I producers. He can reached at sroennau@efgusa.com.

Study: The desktop drives most car shopper calls to dealerships

CARY, N.C. - 

While car searches on mobile devices surpass those performed on desktops and laptops, because most consumers who make phone calls to dealerships shop on their desktops, automotive marketers should consider how they direct digital ad spend between both desktops and mobile devices, especially during the industry’s two peak sales seasons, says a recent study.

Shoppers on their desktops and laptops made up 54.8 percent of call conversions from dealer websites, while only 45.2 percent of calls come from visitors on mobile devices, according to a study on shoppers who make phones to dealerships by DT University, the educational and training center of DialogTech.

DialogTech said its DT University examined more than 1.1 million phone calls made to thousands of U.S. and Canadian dealerships from 2015 through August 2017.

During the two peak sales seasons, March to May and September to November the study found that gap between desktop and mobile generated calls is even greater.

Desktop shoppers drive both the most calls and revenue, according to DialogTech.

Below lists the percentage of how many more desktop and laptop calls dealerships received during peak sales seasons:

First Peak Sales Season

  • March: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • April: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • May: 27.3% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

Second Peak Sales Season

  • September: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • October: 22.2% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile
  • November: 56.4% more calls from desktop/laptop than mobile

“There is no shortage of great marketing research on the importance of smartphones to the customer journey of every industry, including automotive,” DialogTech director of content marketing, Blair Symes said in an email interview with Auto Remarketing.

“At DialogTech, we've even published a lot of it. But in the rush to optimize everything for mobile, it can be easy to forget about the desktop. That's why it's important that marketers understand what devices shoppers use at each stage of the customer journey, including when they convert online or over the phone, and tailor their ad campaigns and customer experiences to generate maximum return,” he continued.

To increase ROI, the study encourages marketers to use data on what devices brings the most calls on each specific day to help direct digital ad spend appropriately.

According to the study, desktop and laptop shoppers drive more calls during the week, while mobile shoppers make more calls on the weekends.

The study also suggests that dealerships pay closer attention to callers because on average, shoppers who call a dealership purchase vehicles 10 times more than consumers just who fill out a form online, according to the study.

DialogTech said it collected its phone call data from its voice management platform, which tracks, millions of calls generated by automaker and dealership website visitors across North America each year.

Top 10 states that have most flood-damaged units in operation

CENTREVILLE, Va., & SANTA MONICA, Calif. - 

As Edmunds offered five suggestions for how to spot a flood-damaged vehicle, new research from Carfax released on Wednesday suggested that drivers may be behind the wheel of more than 325,000 previously flooded vehicles.

Analysts computed that number is a 20-percent increase from 2016.

Carfax also compiled a list of 10 states that have the most vehicles reported as flood damaged by a state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) and insurance companies. That rundown includes:

1. Texas: 51,000

2. Louisiana: 29,000

3. Pennsylvania: 20,000

4. Florida: 19,000

5. Kentucky: 16,000

6. Illinois: 15,000

7. South Carolina: 13,000

8. Virginia: 13,000

9. North Carolina: 13,000

10. Michigan: 11,000

Carfax shared the frustration of one consumer who purchased a vehicle unaware of its flooded past.

“I bought a car last year, and the seller never told us anything about it being a flood car,” said Charlene Geiger from Pennsylvania. "When we got home and ran a Carfax, there it was — a flood car from Hurricane Sandy. It showed that the seller bought it as a salvage car and the title was washed when he brought to Pennsylvania. We lost $16,000 over all of it.”

In addition to the current total, Carfax suspects that several hundred thousand more flooded vehicles may emerge from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Historically, the company said about half the vehicles damaged by floods end up back on the market.

Carfax explained that flooded vehicles rot from the inside out as water corrodes the mechanical parts, shorts the electrical system and compromises safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes. Health concerns are an added problem, as mold and bacteria permeate the soft parts of the car.

“Our data shows there’s still much work to be done in helping consumers avoid buying flood damaged cars,” said Dick Raines, president of Carfax. “They can, and do, show up all over the country, whether it be a few miles or hundreds of miles from where the flooding occurred.

“With two devastating storms already this year, it’s vital for used-car buyers everywhere to protect themselves from flooded cars that may wind up for sale. Start with a thorough test drive, a vehicle history report and a mechanic's inspection before buying any used car,” Raines continued.

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Carfax is letting consumers check for flood damage free of charge at carfax.com/flood.

Edmunds senior consumer advice editor Ron Montoya reiterated a similar position about watching for flood-damaged units, referencing some of the trends Carfax shared: 

“Roughly half of the vehicles with salvage titles are resold, often in places where the flood never hit, and the sale of flood-damaged cars happens most often in private-party sales than on dealer lots,” Montoya said. “Given that electrical and mechanical problems can potentially surface long after the seller is gone, used-car buyers are at risk of owning an unreliable car with no recourse against the seller.

“Reputable dealers use vehicle history reports to check cars they are offered so they can avoid such problems, and car shoppers should follow that example by checking the vehicle’s history, while looking for signs of a flood-damaged car,” he added.

Montoya then went into detail about the five ways people can spot a flood-damaged vehicle, including:

1. Be alert to unusual odors. Musty or moldy odors inside the car are a sign of mildew buildup from prolonged exposure to water. It might be coming from an area the seller is unable to completely clean. Beware of a strong air freshener or cleaning solution scent since it may indicate the seller is trying to cover up something. Run the air-conditioner to see if a moldy smell comes from the vents.

2. Look for discolored carpeting. Large stains or differences in color between lower and upper upholstery sections may indicate that standing water was in the vehicle. A used car with brand-new upholstery is also a warning sign since a seller may have tried to remove the flood-damaged upholstery altogether.

3. Examine the exterior for water buildup. Signs may include fogging inside headlamps or taillights and damp or muddy areas where water naturally pools, such as overhangs inside the wheel well. A water line might be noticeable in the engine compartment or the trunk, indicating that the car sat in standing water.

4. Inspect the undercarriage. Look for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles.

5. Be suspicious of dirt buildup in unusual areas. These include areas such as around the seat tracks or the upper carpeting under the glove compartment. Have an independent mechanic look for caked mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.

Podcast: John Giamalvo of Equifax

CARY, N.C. - 

Nick is back to handle hosting duties as this episode features John Giamalvo, the vice president of dealer services at Equifax.

Their conversation touches on how dealers are enhancing their financing processes both before and after vehicle delivery.

Check out the conversation below.

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10 steps to watch for flood-damaged vehicles

CARY, N.C. - 

With two Category 4 hurricanes striking the United States during the past two weeks, the National Automobile Dealers Association offered 10 inspection tips for prospective buyers to spot flood-damaged vehicles.

As what’s left of Hurricane Irma cut through Georgia and Alabama on Monday, the impact left a day earlier in Florida was significant.

According to updates posted on its website, ADESA did not open its Florida facilities in Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Ocala and Jacksonville on Monday. ADESA Atlanta was set to close at 1 p.m. on Monday. ADESA Birmingham opened on Monday, but officials said the Alabama facility was operating with a limited staff.

While ADESA said its Orlando operation still was planning to have its dealer consignment sale on Tuesday, and its regularly scheduled consignment sale in Atlanta on Wednesday was still scheduled, the company emphasized that dealers and consignors should monitor its website for potential changes.

No matter how dealerships might be acquiring inventory in the coming weeks, NADA urged used-car managers and operators to watch for potentially damaged vehicles by taking these steps it listed on its website:

1. Check a vehicle’s title history using the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VinCheck, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System or a commercially available vehicle history report service, such as Experian or Carfax, etc. Reports may state whether a vehicle has been flood damaged.

2. Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.

3. Check for recently shampooed carpeting.

4. Look under the carpeting for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.

5. Inspect for interior rust and under the carpeting, and inspect upholstery and door panels for evidence of fading.

6. Check under the dash for dried mud and residue, and note any mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.

7. Check for rust on screws in the console and in other areas water would normally not reach unless the vehicle was submerged.

8. Look for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses and around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.

9. Inspect electrical wiring for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.

10. Inspect other components for rust or flaking metal not normally found in late-model vehicles.

NAMAD gets involved in hurricane relief

In light of historic hurricane disasters in Texas and Florida, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealershas spearheaded the NAMAD Disaster Relief Fund to assist employees and families of NAMAD members in these affected areas.

In a member-wide call to action, NAMAD has asked members to contribute $2,000 for each dealership they own to this crucial Fund.

“The response has been amazing,” NAMAD chairman Irving Matthews said in a news release. “We have already collected more than $400,000 towards our goal of raising $1 million.  Even our dealerships in the affected areas have donated, despite the potential for huge financial losses. 

“All of the monies raised will be distributed to NAMAD member dealer employees and their families to help them deal with the loss of income, housing and stability hurricanes Harvey and Irma have created,” Matthews continued. “Like millions of Americans coast to coast, we've made a commitment to help those in need, and help jumpstart the rebuilding process.”

NAMAD acknowledged it will take months for the most severely damaged businesses to rebuild.  This, too, prolongs the crisis for affected families.

“NAMAD calls on the insurance industry to be expedient in processing claims for losses during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” NAMAD president Damon Lester said. “We also thank automobile manufacturers for accelerating vehicle removal and staging so damaged inventory can be replaced as quickly as possible.

“Texas and Florida represent two major markets for new vehicle sales in the U.S., and NAMAD and others are doing our part to assist those in need,” Lester said. “If all companies that support the automobile industry react and respond with immediacy and purpose, we can, more quickly, put Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the history books.”

COMMENTARY: How the video journey measurably moves auto buyers toward purchase

BOSTON - 

Automakers are continuing to shift more dollars from their historically massive broadcast TV buys to digital video spends.

However, for many, digital video is still a new frontier – and one that requires special considerations if marketers are to take advantage of its unique engagement opportunities and ability to drive “butts in seats” (i.e. sales).

The auto marketers who are succeeding with their video investments are doing more than just repurposing their TV spots. They’re uniquely identifying, targeting and engaging buyers based on their position within the consumer decision journey.

Let’s look at how automakers and dealer groups can use video to engage potential auto buyers throughout the customer journey.

Unique considerations

When compared with traditional TV spots, there are unique benefits and considerations for incorporating digital video into consumer engagement strategies. Digital video advertising empowers marketers to not only provide the opportunity to target people that fit the proper demographics of a vehicle, but they also have the opportunity to target specific creative based on their stage in the buyer journey.

The right platform can move them through the journey, leveraging engagement data and varied content based on their reactions to an auto brand’s message; thus, simply repackaging TV spots for digital video misses the opportunity to connect with the consumer in a meaningful way based on their level of consideration.

Since consumers view digital video on both mobile and desktop, it’s critical to think holistically about each ad and take the device and ad unit into account to achieve the best user experience. People will react very differently to brand messages delivered on mobile, desktop and tablet. It is important that marketers target a person when they are in context or are most receptive to a brand’s message.

In addition, given social media’s potential for driving purchase intent and awareness in the auto industry, marketers must also consider how to incorporate the messaging of their video advertising into their social media strategies. The more coordinated auto marketers are across channels, the more likely they are to move the consumer further along the path to purchase with each interaction.

A two-way conversation

Consumers want to be heard. They want a voice. Unlike broadcast TV, digital video has the potential to start a two-way conversation with potential customers. Remember: Digital video viewers, unlike broadcast TV viewers, are very open to interacting with their screens, especially in mobile where they are leaning into their viewing experience.

As such, marketers miss a significant opportunity if they simply allow their digital videos to end without engaging the viewer further.

By placing interactive engagement experiences at the end of videos, consumers finally get to have a voice and auto marketers have an opportunity to engage consumers in a conversation that reveals brand sentiment and product preferences.

These engagement cards enable consumers to give feedback through surveys, watching additional related videos (turning paid into earned media), open social sharing and other immersive rich media experiences.

Tips for leveraging video by campaign goal

Digital video and interactive engagement cards should be leveraged differently according to campaign goals. Let’s look at unique tactics you can incorporate for the following common campaign types.

Branding and vehicle launch: For branding and vehicle launch campaigns, marketers should target their ad campaigns to a broad audience and seek to gauge the viewer’s response to the creative. Testing multiple creative messages and analyzing the audience’s reactions to the campaigns is relatively simple via digital video and can help marketers learn more about their target buyers to refine, segment and look-a-like model audiences to drive additional purchase intenders into a customer journey with that brand and vehicle. Via interactive surveys following a video, marketers can engage viewers with a specific goal in mind. For example, they can gauge their likeliness to purchase a vehicle in the upcoming months, or gain insights into the viewer’s perception of the auto brand’s quality and luxury status.

Brand and model-level shopping: For brand and model level shopping, auto marketers can target ad campaigns to a broad audience and then encourage the viewers to watch more videos through a video explorer engagement experience post awareness video. Subsequent video content can be tailored according to the make or model that the viewer chooses or let a potential auto buyer dive more into the car by offering up videos on safety, technology or performance of a specific model.

Marketers may also choose to segment audiences by product preference, and then re-engage those audiences on the open web and in app with sequential videos that engage and educate. They should also consider simultaneously exporting the audience in real time to Facebook or their DMP for a cross channel approach.

Shopper messaging: Automakers can also leverage digital video to keep interested consumers in the moment and entice deep engagement with auto purchase decision makers. To meet shopper messaging marketing goals, it’s best to turn the ad into an app through interactive engagement experience following a video. These features could include a “build your own car” interactive tool or a financing calculator that determines monthly payments based on the viewer's input.

Parts & Service Messaging: everaging current customer data likely held in an automakers DMP enables partners to target current auto owners with incentives to bring their car into a dealer for genuine parts and service.

As vehicles get older, consumers sometimes select local auto mechanics to perform needed service. Automakers and dealers begin to lose the ability to understand long term performance of their vehicles and how to improve them. It also represents a loss of service revenue as well as a chance to sell a consumer into a new car as their current car ages out or doesn’t fit their current lifestyle. Engagement experiences at the end of the video could include digital coupons for an oil change and other needed service.

Online shoppers to dealer stores: Digital video can also enable dealer groups to drive a consumer into a dealership for a test drive through a geo-targeted campaign.

The video can promote vehicle sales incentives and also enable a viewer to identify their local dealership through an interactive engagement experience.

Through advances in tracking and attribution the dealer group can measure digital video ad effectiveness by tracking dealership visits.

Social expansion: Auto marketers can leverage digital video’s interactivity to entice happy customers to share their experiences on social media. They can create custom social audiences based on sentiment and product preferences, and then provide easy-to-use social share options. This enables auto marketers to continue to build followers and influence on social media outlets, bringing digital video’s utility full circle within the sales funnel.

 

Glenn Kiladis is vice president of product & strategy at ViralGains, a company in the video advertising space. 

Cox Automotive & NADA partner with Hireology for dealership workforce conference

CHICAGO - 

Hireology is looking to help dealerships slow the costly churn of employees being added and subtracted from their workforce.

Officials from the hiring and talent management platform are working in partnership with Cox Automotive and the National Automobile Dealers Association to host a retail automotive human capital management summit called Elevate. Intended for general managers, dealer principals and HR leaders, Hireology insisted attendees will assess competencies, identify gaps and formally develop 2018 human capital management plans during the conference, set for Sept. 19 in Chicago.

Hireology went on to highlight participants will build the strategy and tactical plan to turn their hiring and talent management processes into a source of competitive advantage. Leveraging a provided playbook to guide discussion, attendees will create a plan unique to their organization and outline steps necessary to successfully implement changes after the event.

“As the retail automotive industry enters a more challenging cycle, management teams must leverage human capital as a source of competitive advantage,” said Adam Robinson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Hireology.

“For most dealerships, the people side of their business is an under-managed operation that represents huge upside potential. Attendees will leave this event with a defined human capital game plan that can dramatically improve their competitiveness and profitability.”

New research from Cox Automotive and Hireology will be released at the event, providing critical insight into the state of dealership staffing. Through extensive research of more than 1,000 dealerships, their employees and the broader U.S. workforce, the 2017 Dealership Staffing Study provides perspective on

—Current perceptions of working in automotive

—How to drive greater applicant engagement

—Tactics to drive great buyer satisfaction via your staffing strategy

A wide array of summit speakers are on the agenda, including:

—Michael Dunlap, director of business development at Schomp Automotive

—Isabelle Helms, VP of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive

—Chris Hoffman, regional managing partner in San Diego at Fisher & Phillips

—Chris Holzshu, executive vice president & chief human resources officer at Lithia Motors

—Jessica Kain-Barton, director of client relations and sales at Kain Automotive

—Eve Knudtsen, president at Knudtsen Chevrolet

—Eric Savage, owner of Freedom Automotive Group

—Steven Szakaly, chief economist at NADA

Elevate will be held Sept 19 at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, located at 5550 N. River Road in Rosemont, Ill. Click here to register and purchase tickets. For more information, call (312) 283-3625, email hpigman@hireology.com or visit hireology.com/elevate2017.

Infiniti dealers top Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index for 2nd year

MONTEREY, Calif. - 

The newly released Prospect Satisfaction Index U.S. Auto Industry Benchmarking Study by Pied Piper Management Company has ranked Nissan’s Infiniti brand dealerships the highest for a second year.

Toyota’s Lexus brand ranks second, and dealerships selling Mercedes-Benz are ranked third.

Pied Piper’s process to determine its rankings includes “mystery shopping” measurement and scoring to industry sales success.

Between last July and this past June, the company measured in-dealership treatment of car-shoppers by deploying 5,289 hired anonymous “mystery shoppers” to dealerships located across the country.

“Today nine out of ten car-shoppers gather information on-line before they ever visit a dealership,” Fran O’Hagan, Pied Piper Management president and chief executive officer said in a news release. “Dealerships today have to work hard to be helpful from the first visit, because they may not have another opportunity.”

Tesla, Mitsubishi, Lincoln, Ram, Subaru and Chevrolet brands have improved the most from year to year, according to Pied Piper.

Tesla, which improved 8 points from 2016, had the most improvement of any brand, according to Pied Piper. The U.S. brands low PSI score resulted from high variability in sales process behaviors across Tesla stores, the company said.

“For example, Tesla staff on average asked how the vehicle would be used only about half the time (64%), asked about trade-ins 45% of the time, and suggested going through the numbers 56 percent of the time.” Pied Piper explained.

“About 23 percent of Tesla visits were exceptional experiences that under the PSI “letter grade” scale earned an “A,” with an average PSI score above 130.  However, 32 percent of the visits earned a PSI letter grade of “D” or “F,” with an average PSI score below 75.

A total of 21 brands improved or remained the same from 2016 to 2017, while 12 brands declined. Declining brands include Jeep, Fiat, Volkswagen and BMW.

Nine brands consistently ranking at or above the industry average each year includes Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Audi, BMW and Kia. 

Chevrolet, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Fiat are five brands that have scored below the industry average for each of the past five years.

For more information about the Prospect Satisfaction Index and Pied Piper’s scoring process, visit www.piedpiperpsi.com.

Holiday car shoppers are often ready to buy

CARY, N.C. - 

In the spirit of summer holidays like Independence Day, Cars.com suggests that auto dealers align their pre-holiday advertising and mobile content in time for holiday weekends.

The third-party shopping site found that during holidays, car shoppers tend to buy — and they also want special offers delivered to their mobile phones.

Consider the traffic dealerships saw this Memorial Day weekend.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, 30 percent of mobile consumers Cars.com surveyed purchased a car.

Roughly 71 percent of mobile consumers said they visited a dealer to specifically shop for a vehicle, and 26 percent for service, according to a recent Memorial Day Weekend survey on Cars.com’s blog.

On a non-holiday weekend, 60 percent of consumers visit a dealer for service and 40 percent to shop.

When it comes to special offers via mobile, around six out of 10 shoppers told Cars.com that they prefer “special offer” content shared with them on their mobile devices, while 81 percent of dealers prefer to share “why buy from us” mobile messaging, Cars.com Research and Insights senior manager Amanda Kaleta-Kott explained.

Additionally, during the Memorial Day weekend, 41 percent of all store visits were walk-ins where the shopper didn’t contact the dealer prior to making a visit.

Twenty percent of those walk-in shoppers surveyed by Cars.com bought a car over the holiday and seven out of 10 said they wish to make a purchase within three months.