Rick Ricart on future of used-car industry

COLUMBUS, Ohio - 

Everyone who has been in the car sales business since the dawn of the Internet age will probably agree that, well, things are a lot different than they used to be.

Customers are more informed. There are a lot more ways to sell a vehicle. But as the old adage goes, as things change, many stay the same.

That was one important message shared by Rick Ricart, the vice president of sales and marketing at the Ricart Automotive Group and third-generation car salesman.

When recently speaking with Ricart, Auto Remarketing asked him how he has seen the business change over the course of his lifetime, more than three decades of which which he has spent in the car industry.

“Since I’ve been in business, it’s a lot less forgiving ... I think of the old adage of, ‘a used car bought right was already 50 percent sold.’ And today, if the right used car is bought right and merchandized correctly, it’s 85 percent sold, he said. The other 15 percent is just not making the customer want to leave. 

And, for the most part, many salesman can probably agree. By the time they reach the dealership, the average customer is much more informed about their purchase than they were prior to the digital information age. More often than not, a customer knows more about a specific vehicle than the average salesman who has to know about a wide variety of vehicles. Which is what lead to Ricart’s policy of not allowing sales staff to “sell cars,” but instead “allow customers to buy a car.”

Referencing the sales strategies of companies like Carvana and Vroom, Ricart thinks that although these types of niche businesses have the potential to steal some business from traditional dealerships, they also give dealerships an opportunity to adapt to the new ways customers want to buy cars.

“I think as people get more comfortable and the word of mouth spreads that there are alternative ways to buy a car, we’re going to see a bit of an impact. I mean, eBay came on the scene, and I think by 2007, they were the No. 1 used-car seller in the world,” he said. “Well, okay, they’re No. 1 in the world, but they haven’t affected us at all. So there’s such a big market for selling used cars, I think it’s OK to have some of these niche and segmented ways of buying.

“I think from a dealership perspective, we just have to adapt to be able to fit all of those different buyers’ bolts. And if you’ve got a certain buyer in your market that wants to buy a car online, a la Amazon style, you need to be able to cater to that customer, he said.

Be able to provide all of that information electronically. Be able to communicate, negotiate, short of doing the actual transaction. Do it all online. Be open and honest. And understand the more open, the more honest, the more accurate we are with that consumer, the greater the chance they’re going to come in and finalize the business with you,” Ricart added.

To learn more about Rick Ricart and his family’s three generations of business that built today’s Ricart Automotive Group, be sure to check out Auto Remarketing’s upcoming “Leading Dealer Groups” issue, coming out in print and online this month.

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