In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake that halted vehicle production and pushed down the amount of trade-ins coming into dealerships, Rod Emmons — like many dealers selling certified pre-owned Japanese-brand cars — “had to get creative” when it came to sourcing CPO-worthy inventory.
“It’s getting harder to obtain pre-owned Acuras,” said Emmons, who is the general manager of Karen Radley Acura in Woodbridge, Va., a town about 22 miles outside of Washington, D.C.
At the time of Emmons' interview with Auto Remarketing earlier this summer, he said that in the last 30 to 45 days, he found that “you really have to roll your sleeves up and get creative,” noting that prices are going higher and higher.
The dealership had turned to an offering from the automaker’s lending arm known as the Vehicle Inter-Dealer Purchasing System, often referred to as “VIPS.”
But with the supply slowdown caused by the earthquake, not as many dealers were sending vehicles through VIPS. This shorted the inventory usually available through this channel.
“That’s why we ramped up our efforts going after our current customers,” he said.
“We’re pulling people out a lot earlier than we have in the past,” Emmons said, referring to the dealership’s practice of contacting existing customers with CPO-worthy Acuras and offering to buy the vehicle as part of a trade-in.
If it works, it not only nets the dealer a new-vehicle sale, but also puts another strong used vehicle in the store’s inventory.
It just makes sense, Emmons believes.
And Karen Radley Acura certainly has tools from the automaker to generate such inventory.
One of those is the Power of Leads program from Acura Financial Services. This gives dealers a customized list of retail customers whose purchase contracts or leases are scheduled to wrap up within the next 30 months, explained Dan Crowe, national remarketing manager for Honda.
By utilizing this tool, dealers have plenty of time to get in touch with existing customers and get them pre-approved, see what they plan on doing once their contract/lease ends and offer a test-drive.
The report shows dealers such information as turn-in dates for customers, customers that have received offers from AFS and an estimate on the amount of the equity a consumer has in his vehicle.
By knowing how much equity the consumer has, a dealer can try to offer the shopper the best trade possible.
So with these resources like Power of Leads at its disposal, the important thing is for the dealership to utilize them to its advantage.
“You have to reach out and make that phone call (to the customer),” he stressed. “We have to do our due diligence and make sure we’re calling our customers.”
With Inventory in Place, CPO Sales Come
Once Karen Radley Acura has the CPO inventory it needs, it tends to excel in the segment.
Emmons said his store typically moves 75 used vehicles per month, 35 to 45 of which are certified. Through May, Karen Radley ranked 17th in the country for Acura CPO sales, Crowe said.
The store’s new-car sales usually hit 50 to 55 units, he said.
Delving into some certified marketing tactics, Emmons pointed to the Web, which for many dealers has become a major focal point of CPO marketing.
“On the pre-owned market, the Internet has become such a huge component of our business,” Emmons explained.
A big part of this is the phone leads it generates via third-party websites. In fact, of the 75 used sales Karen Radley makes each month, close to 50 come through phone leads via third-party sites.
The dealership has an interesting way of handling these phone leads so that they are best-managed.
When a shopper calls the store about one of these used vehicles, they are not routed to a salesperson. Instead, all of the used-vehicle inquiry calls are sent to one of two managers, each of which knows everything that has been done to the vehicle.
This helps the dealership control its leads and provide the most complete information to the shopper.
Continuing along, Emmons also stressed the importance of including photographs with online listings.
He suggests 15 pictures, including such elements as side views, interior views and photos of the wheels. Emmons also emphasized the importance of “quality seller’s notes with quality information” as well as posting a quality, consistent backdrop in the photos that including store information and a uniform setting.
Photos are very important “because that’s all the customer has to look at. What else are they going to go on?”
Repeat business is also quite crucial to Karen Radley Acura. But it’s more than just calling on existing customers to drive trade-ins. Fostering customer loyalty must be part of the equation.
“Really, that has to come from the top and through the managers,” Emmons said.
Basically, Emmons said he looks at customer loyalty like forming relationships. He stressed the importance of creating a personal relationship at every level of the dealership. In fact, Emmons tells customers to make sure they get their respective sales consultant’s cell phone number.
“It’s got to be a culture throughout the store,” he said. “You treat them just like they’re family and they like it.”
And the customer will know that the dealership is there when help is needed.
“It’s really just the act of people caring,” he said.