Edmunds recognizes over 350 dealers for high customer satisfaction ratings


Edmunds announced Monday that its Five Star Dealer Awards have recognized over 350 car dealers nationwide for their outstanding customer satisfaction ratings.

This year, 25 dealers were also selected to receive Edmunds’ Five Star Premier Dealer designation for receiving the highest overall satisfaction ratings.

“Car shopping is a daunting task for many, but finding the right dealer shouldn’t be,” said Avi Steinlauf, chief executive officer of Edmunds. “We raised the bar on what it takes to become an Edmunds Five Star dealer in 2018, making it easier for shoppers to find a local dealer that shares our commitment to superior customer service and support.”

In addition to participating in the Edmunds Dealer Partner program, to qualify for a Five Star Dealer Award, dealers must have earned at least 30 five-star sales reviews on Edmunds over the past two years.

Both Edmunds Five Star and Edmunds Five Star Premier dealers must have held at least a 4.5-star average between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017, to qualify.

Additionally, Five Star Premier dealers must have also earned at least 150 five star reviews over the past two years.

“Earning Edmunds Five Star Premier status is a rare feat — less than 1 percent of Edmunds’ dealer partners ever reach that milestone, added Steinlauf.

“The 25 dealers that achieved this pinnacle in 2018 represent the best-of-the-best in their industry and a willingness to go above and beyond for their customers.”

For the full list of 2018 winners, click here.

Clarivoy announces new software that matches marketing source to vehicle sales


Clarivoy announced Monday the launch of new software that uses what it calls “Any-Touch” attribution to ensure that marketing sources accurately receive credit for influencing customers during the car buying process.

When marketing sources have influenced a customer’s vehicle purchase,   the new software uses the Any-Touch attribution to guarantee that proper credit is attributed.

To show vendors’ accurate impact on vehicle sales, Clarivoy works with dealers to obtain sales data and then matches the sales file with leads and vendor website traffic, the company said.

While dealers and third-party auto vendors receive millions of unique web visitors per month — less than five percent identify themselves, according to Clarivoy chief executive officer Steve White.

“Who are the other 95 percent, and did they purchase a vehicle?” said White. “In the eyes of a dealer, the value of a third-party auto vendor, marketing agency or website provider is reduced to one thing: Leads. Since most visitors to a dealer’s website or third-party site are unidentifiable, 95 percent of the value of that vendor or marketing partner is lost.”

The new software gives dealers an understanding of the total number of vehicles each vendor and marketing source is responsible for influencing by delivering monthly attributable sales to dealers’ dashboards.

Clarivoy said the new API technology was created using proprietary technology designed to match a person to multiple devices across multiple channels.

Additionally, according to the company, set up is simple and only requires the installation of Clarivoy’s tracking code on all relevant website properties.

The Appraisal Lane CEO set to lead appraisal process workshop at NADA

AUSTIN, Texas - 

The Appraisal Lane co-founder and chief executive officer Jeff Risner will host a workshop at the upcoming 2018 NADA Show titled "Counting Cars: Stop Gambling with Used Car Appraisals."

The workshop is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on March 23 and March 24 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Along with how to improve the appraisal process for core and noncore inventory, attendees will learn common used-car appraisal pitfalls and new processes that improve inventory management and disposition.

"A sizeable 60 percent of vehicles that dealerships process today consists of noncore makes, models and trims," Risner said in a news release. "With over 2,600 make/model/trim combinations manufactured this year alone, it's a challenge for dealers to accurately appraise every vehicle they process, and understandably so. More than ever, today's dealers need new techniques and resources to improve the appraisal process, increase incremental sales and mitigate exposure to wholesale loss."

The workshop is designed to teach dealers how to improve the overall appraisal process, optimize inventory disposition and increase conquest sales, aged inventory sales and fixed operations profits.

Risner said the informative workshop is fitting for anyone interested in improving their used-car operations, such as used-car managers/pre-owned directors, dealer principals and general managers.

NADA Foundation outlines plans for major workforce initiative

TYSONS, Va. - 

Last fall, a robust research project involving Cox Automotive and Hireology uncovered how much personnel turnover costs dealerships as well as what characteristics stores should seek in new employees.

Now, the National Automobile Dealers Association is strengthening its efforts to help dealerships stabilize and strengthen their human resources.

On Friday, the NADA Foundation’s Board of Trustees has approved plans and funding for a largescale workforce initiative to promote the value of dealership jobs, especially service technicians, in the automotive retail industry.

The initiative — which will include a new NADA Foundation website, videos, digital and social media content, and outreach to opinion leaders — will be developed in 2018 and launched at the 2019 NADA Show in San Francisco. The Foundation will also begin fundraising for the initiative in 2019.

“Local dealerships provide more than a million good-paying jobs in sales, management and service, which benefit communities everywhere,” said NADA Foundation chairman Annette Sykora, who is the dealer principal of Smith South Plains Ford and Lincoln in Levelland, Texas, and a former NADA chairman.

“And the future of our industry is the dealership workforce,” Sykora continued. “Considering the shortages that dealerships now face, especially in recruiting, training and retaining technicians, the time is now for our Foundation to educate America on the value of these jobs to workers and local communities.”

 The NADA Foundation developed the framework for its workforce initiative over the course of 2017, after identifying the great need to harmonize efforts from automakers, training centers, and dealerships — especially on recruiting technicians.

There is currently very little brand-neutral information on training centers, according to Jonathan Collegio, NADA’s senior vice president of public affairs, whose department administers the NADA Foundation.

“What we found are a lot of competing silos that don’t appear to be talking to each other, which makes getting into a technician career unduly burdensome on potential recruits,” Collegio said. “It is incredibly difficult for someone interested in a technician career to find clear information about the benefits of a technician career, and how to gain the training and certifications necessary. We plan to provide compelling information on these good-paying careers at dealerships.”

Collegio cited competing information on training centers as a major hindrance to recruiting, as OEMs often only refer to training centers they are partnered with, while ignoring other programs. For example, on its website, one major automaker references its Baltimore and Chesapeake, Va., T-10 training centers, but ignores a major training center near Washington, D.C., because it is not associated with that automaker.

"A potential recruit in the Washington, D.C., area may therefore not know there is a training center nearby," NADA said.

There is also a lack of targeted messaging and marketing to promote the careers, which Collegio says the NADA Foundation will address in its marketing efforts.

As NADA ramps up its efforts, one of the orchestrators of the research from Cox Automotive is upbeat about dealerships’ potential workforce.

“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,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive, at the time the research initially was released.

“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,” Helms added.

New Affinitiv eBook argues why dealers should use revenue per UIO over service absorption metric


Affinitiv announced Monday the release of its new free eBook for auto dealers, titled Why Service Absorption is a Dangerous Number: An Auto Dealer’s Guide to Growing Service Revenue Using Revenue per Units-in-Operation.

The eBook presents a detailed guide on how dealers can grow service profits using revenue per units-in-operation (UIO). And stresses why dealers should use revenue per UIO to guide their service revenue growth strategy over the service absorption metric.

“Service absorption is dangerous because it doesn’t measure a store’s achievement relative to its potential. Your service department can be at 100 percent service absorption but still be losing market share,” Affinitiv chief executive officer Scot Eisenfelder said in a news release. “Using revenue per UIO as a metric forces effort on activities that grow market share and increase customer retention.”

For dealers focusing on growing service department revenue, Affinitiv said the best metric to measure and track increase market share and increase service yield from current customers is revenue per UIO.

“A focus on maximizing revenue per UIO creates a fundamentally different strategic and operating mindset where the dealer does not concede any revenue to the aftermarket,” said Eisenfelder. “When dealers calculate their revenue per UIO it’s an eye-opening experience, and not necessarily in a good way.”

Using revenue per UIO as a metric provides dealers with a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses because it more accurately represents a service department’s valid potential, according to the Affinitiv.

To download the free eBook, click here.

KeyBanc dealer survey shows positive used sales start


The newest dealer survey from KeyBanc Capital Market showed the opening month of 2018 was a fruitful one for dealerships’ used-vehicle departments.

According to the results shared Friday, the majority of respondents — 75 percent to be exact — continued to report increasing used-vehicle sales in January.

“We are anticipating a low single-digit used-car volume increase in 2018, driven by positive unemployment trends and continued improvement in off-lease supply,” KeyBanc analysts said.

And closely tied to used vehicles, the survey highlighted that dealerships are enjoying a robust start within their service drives, too.

The survey again showed the majority of respondents — this time 69 percent — continued to report increasing parts and service revenue, maintaining a positive trend in this segment.

“We maintained our low to mid-single-digit P&S revenue growth outlook into 2018, in line with the 2017 trend driven by increasing zero to 7-year-old vehicles, increasing used-vehicle sales that drives reconditioning work into bays and favorable warranty trends,” analysts said.

KeyBanc noted that positive used vehicle and P&S revenue trends should offset a “modest” 0.8 percent year-over-year pullback in new-vehicle sales volume.

“We are maintaining our full-year 2018 outlook of a 2 percent, or 16.8 million vehicles, in line with the midpoint of consensus SAAR range of 16.5 million to 17.0 million units,” analysts said.

No matter whether the stores are turning used vehicles or new models, the KeyBanc report pointed out that overall auto financing and subprime financing availability continued to contract slightly. Analysts added the trend “is not unusual at peak of the cycle, but credit availability remains well aligned with demand.”

And when it comes to gross profit, the KeyBanc survey showed a mix bag of trends.

When it comes to F&I gross profit, 46 percent of survey respondents reported intact gross per unit while another 38 percent reported an increase of about $50 year-over-year.

For gross on used vehicles, about the same number of responding dealers posted a rise of least $50 per unit in January as the ones that sustained a drop of about $50 per unit to open 2018.

CDK introduces new DMS with pricing model for dealers operating 1 or 2 locations


CDK Global announced Thursday the release of its new cloud-based DMS — CDK Drive Flex DMSaaS.

Along with user-friendly features, Drive Flex includes a pricing model that adapts to the unique business needs of dealers operating one or two locations.

“CDK Drive Flex is an innovative web-based DMS perfect for dealers with just one or two locations,” CDK Global chief executive officer Brian MacDonald said in a news release. “The system introduces a groundbreaking commercial model that adapts to the individual dealer’s business activity. We’ve been developing this solution for some time and know it will help smaller dealers who really need this kind of solution for managing their businesses,” MacDonald explained.

Rather than having a fixed monthly amount due regardless of business activity, Drive Flex pricing adjusts with each dealer’s business volumes for enhanced cash flow and margin control.

“Using three common metrics—sales, system users and repair orders—pricing adjusts to volumes with a clear line of sight for business planning and growth,” CDK Global said.

Additionally, Drive Flex customers can access the core insights they need from virtually any browser or internet-connected device.

The DMS provides real-time business insights based on operational management reporting that leverages CDK Executive Eye technology.

In addition to having a simplified, modern user interface, Drive Flex’s 256-bit encryption technology increases data protection and is available on Amazon Web Services.

For a Drive Flex demonstration, dealers can visit booth 2216 at the NADA Show in Las Vegas from March 22 to 25.

US Bank chooses AutoGravity to enhance mobile offering


U.S. Bank is now is leveraging the same technology from AutoGravity being deployed by an array of captives.

U.S. Bank recently launched a digital offering on its website that allows consumers to shop for a new vehicle and get pre-approved for financing, all before actually stepping foot in a dealership.

U.S. Bank’s digital financing platform is currently available via the U.S. Bank website for those individuals looking to buy a new vehicle through dealerships served by U.S. Bank. It will expand to the bank’s mobile app and be available to used-vehicle buyers and co-applicants in the coming months.

Working with AutoGravity, U.S Bank created a new platform on that can provide a simplified, streamlined loan application process for users that typically takes just minutes to receive an approval decision.

Potential buyers using the new U.S. Bank tool simply:

1. Pick their car and select a dealership online.

2. Apply for a pre-approval for U.S. Bank auto financing online.

3. Close the vehicle installment contract at the dealership, and drive off in their new car.

“We want our customers — both car buyers and dealerships — to have the best, most seamless experience possible,” said John Hyatt, executive vice president of consumer dealer services for U.S. Bank. “This technology helps us get the buyer in the driver’s seat sooner and brings pre-approved customers to the dealership.”

Besides saving consumers time, the new technology improves customers’ overall car-buying experience by providing them with pre-approved loan terms going into the dealership.

“Together, AutoGravity and U.S. Bank have taken the first step on a journey to revolutionize the digital car-buying experience, empowering U.S. Bank’s customers to finance their next car in minutes, anytime and anywhere they want,” said Andy Hinrichs, founder and chief executive officer of AutoGravity.

Used-car sales show improvement from January

CARY, N.C. - 

If the latest projections from Edmunds are any indication, look for an improvement in retail used-car sales this month.

Edmunds expects February will end with 3.5 million used-car sales, which would beat January’s 3.1 million pre-owned sales.

That would translate to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 39.1 million used cars, up from the 38.9-million SAAR seen last month.

Over at Cox Automotive, the company said in its February Industry Update released two weeks ago that it still is anticipating 39.5 million used-car sales this year, despite a 2-percent year-over-year decline in used sales during the first month of the year.

Nothing that January’s dip “does not materially change the forecast,” Cox Automotive said in the report: “Now that used-vehicle pricing is back to pre-hurricane levels, used sales should pick up momentum for a strong March and April.”

That would perhaps help continue a trend spotted by now retired former Cox Automotive chief economist Tom Webb.

Webb, citing earnings from the companies, said in a tweet Tuesday that same-store used retail unit sales increases for the publicly traded dealer groups have climbed in 33 of the past 34 quarters — albeit with increasingly softer margins.

One of those publicly traded groups is Sonic Automotive, which released quarterly results Tuesday morning and emphasized the momentum in its standalone used-car retail stores.

Sonic’s EchoPark stores enjoyed nearly a 167-percent spike in sales for the fourth quarter, executive vice president of operations Jeff Dyke said in a news release.

“We sold over 10,600 units for the year with nearly 4,500 units retailed in the fourth quarter as our business model is accelerating volume at a rapid pace.  This represents a 100-percent increase in volume for EchoPark year-over-year,” Dyke said.

“We expect our EchoPark brand to sell in the range of 25,000 cars in 2018, more than doubling 2017 volume,” he said. “In just a few years, the EchoPark brand has become nearly 20 percent of Sonic’s total pre-owned volume, and, given the volume increase we are experiencing with our model, we fully expect EchoPark to eclipse the volume we currently produce in our Sonic franchised dealerships over the next few years.”

PebblePost, direct mail solution provider, appoints VP to grow auto vertical

CARY, N.C. - 

The provider of a unique marketing solution that creates personalized direct mail using real-time consumer activity — PebblePost — recently announced that it has appointed new vice president Richard Flynn to grow its automotive vertical.

In an environment where the digital age has changed how consumers are often marketed to, the company aims to combine the power of connecting online with that of direct mail through its Programmatic Direct Mail solution.

Flynn brings over 20 years of experience with the auto ad business and has held previous positions at both AOL and Sports Illustrated.

Rich is a master at understanding the customer and their business,” Pebble Post chief growth officer Geoff Dodge said in a news release announcing Flynn’s hire in January.

“His depth of knowledge of the auto vertical — having worked with Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, to name a few — is invaluable as he builds our go-to-market strategy for these marketers hungry for innovation,” he continued.

In a crowded media landscape like we see today, Flynn believes that Programmatic Direct Mail can be a changemaker for automotive business looking to reach consumers and move more metal.

He says that direct mail marketing allows dealers to pursue consumers in a way that will rise above the noise they often receive online.

Effective frequency

Now that traditional channels are not as large or arguably as effective as they used to be, Flynn suggests that when it comes to marketing on the dealer side of the auto industry a lot of noise locally can turn off consumers.

“Frequency is always a concern for dealers. How do you weigh too much versus too little in today’s marketing mix?” Flynn told Auto Remarketing by email earlier this this month.

“The challenge is heightened when you consider how many messages are out there already, every day, from search and social to display retargeting and traditional methods like direct mail. Consumers have developed an ad blocker muscle that can’t be ignored, so it’s important for dealers to remember that more isn’t always better if it leads to noise that’s easily tuned out,” he continued.

In addition to being designed to pick up on dealer website visitors and recognize whether or not an individual is an existing customer or prospect, Flynn says that PebblePost’s patent-pending digital platform provides dealers an option to connect with customers and leads that is relevant, personal and respectful.

The solution blends segmentation, campaign management, production, analytics and optimization. Its tools include: Campaign Management, Address Graph, Dynamic Production, Real-Time Analytics and Continuous Optimization and Intent Data Capture, which picks up real-time visitor signals, such as page visits, keyword searches, cart abandonment and behavioral activity.

“PebblePost’s Programmatic Direct Mail platform offers dealers a relevant, personal, and respectful way to communicate with existing customers — come back to the lot for service, e.g. — and most intriguing, connect with new prospects,” said Flynn.

The latter are potential customers already visiting the dealer’s website — driven there by some call-to-action — but the dealer doesn’t know who they are. Our Website Prospect Remarketing solution picks up on that signal. We recognize that someone is not a customer, but a prospect. Then we leverage our proprietary technology to create connections between an individual visiting a website via a cookie and where to send the mail and find their postal address,” he continued.

To inform dealers where to send the mail and find car shoppers’ postal addresses, the Address Graph tool determines the most accurate USPS-verified postal address for a segmented customer.

You have this tangible reminder in the prospect’s home urging them to visit the lot, Flynn explained.“That impression doesn’t disappear like a display ad — it picks up more eyeballs in the home as that purchase is discussed. If you think of the enormous pressure on dealers to create new business, Programmatic Direct Mail can be a real game-changer for their bottom line.”