BROSSARD, Quebec -

To get a bit more insight into what makes a Groupe Park Avenue dealership tick, Auto Remarketing Canada chatted with David Webber, vice president and general manager of Park Avenue Audi in Brossard, Quebec. This interview was part of the Auto Remarketing Canada Digital Magazine Leading Dealer Group Issue, which is set to be released soon.

Webber says the Montreal-area dealership touts an impressive reputation based on the Audi nameplate as well as the Groupe Park Avenue title.

Webber talks on staff training, showrooms, digital marketing and more.

ARC: Give me a little history of the dealership. Can you tell us a bit about your location and demographics?

David Webber: We have been an Audi dealer since 1990. We are in the suburbs of Montreal, and we are on the south side of that river — the South Shore of Montreal, and there are about 750,000 people there.

Mostly French-speaking; we are in a nice neighborhood — we draw a lot from the island of Montreal but drive a lot of sales from our specific market, which is the South Shore.

ARC: Give me an overview of your customer service strategy. Are there any specific areas you all try to focus on?

DW: We built this big Audi terminal that opened at the end of 2011, and the building is very impressive and potentially imposing to our customers. One thing that the departments try to collectively do is make the customer feel comfortable. From the minute they walk in, the receptionists ask to take their coat and try to make them feel at home and not overwhelmed by the high-end luxury car facility.

We focus very much on the tools that Audi give us, such as its CSI program.

ARC: Can you provide an overview of your digital marketing strategy? Has social media, website optimization, SEO/SEM, and more, helped push sales and improve customer relationships?

DW: We focus heavily on SEM and SEO, and we have a Web development team in-house. They are constantly looking to post on Facebook, not just about cars, but also about interesting things that are going on at the dealership. It gets people’s attention. Our Web strategy is at the heart of our communications standards.

We have launched a new website in all of the Groupe Park Avenue dealerships that is focused on getting customers to make contact with us. We make it easy for them to find our inventories, and we make it easy for them to make appointments. We are adding blogs to our website, and work on retargeting and search engine optimization. We still do traditional marketing, because I feel we still need to those traditional ad campaigns, but much of those serve to drive traffic to our website.

ARC: Tell me a bit about your staff training strategy and how this is crucial to dealership success.

DW: Audi has a very extensive Audi certification program through which every year each employee has to go through sales training and brand training. And then Normand Hebert, the president and CEO of Groupe Park Avenue, does an orientation session practically on a quarterly basis with new hires, so they really get a feel for the DNA of the company.

Another area we are fortunate in this respect is Audi is a really strong brand right now, and we do attract accomplished successful salespeople with a strong reputation in the industry more often than not, so in-house training is very tailored to the new hires.

We do pretty good follow-up with our employees and put them on a track for expectations. We evaluate six weeks down the road after hire, and so on. I meet weekly with my sales managers, and we go over the status of reps and new hires.

ARC: Tell me a bit about the connection to the Groupe Park Avenue dealer group and the benefits of being part of the dealership group.

DW: Reputation, above all. It’s good for attracting employees, and it’s good for attracting customers. Naturally, when you have a group with centralized accounting and expenses, you get economies of scale that help us operate more efficiently. At the end of the day, this leads to added value for our customers.

Going back to our employees, we actually have a retirement plan, which is not often heard of in Canadian dealerships. Another thing that adds values is our business development center that calls all our customers, and this really helps us fill our service centers, especially in periods when it isn’t as busy. There are a lot of upsides.

ARC: On average, how many pre-owned vehicles does your dealership sell per month? What are some of the tools you use to ensure used-sales success?

DW: We do about 30 used cars a month retail, and 20 to 25 wholesale. We are noticing with being more efficient we are increasing grosses over 2013 so far in 2014, and that’s because we use a lot of new tools.

We use just about every used car tool available — vAuto and online dealer-to-dealer auctions like TradeRev, that help us get inventory and get rid of inventory on a timely basis, as well. vAuto really helps us analyze the purchases and state of the inventory.

Since we have been using these tools, we turn our inventory much more frequently. I think our turn rate right now is 13 to 14 turns a year, which means very few cars over 30 days in stock, so we really try to stay on top of it. When you turn your inventory, you are generally making more money with a smaller investment. We don’t need to keep $1 million worth of inventory, we can keep much less and turn it more frequently and make more gross profit on less of an investment. That is really starting to pay off.

ARC: Used inventory has been tight lately. Where do you find is the best outlet to secure quality, pre-owned inventory? Have you all used any alternative sourcing methods?

One of the tools that we use is Auto Alert, which helps you choose cars in your vehicle fleet, either in service, sales, or leasing, and get a feel for when they are ripe to be traded in. Then, we offer customers to get a new vehicle, and we get our hands on their trade-ins.

We mine our service customers, for sure, as well. The service experience is crucial, because the service experience is what drives that customer loyalty. So we focus on CSI, and we focus on our customer handling in the workshop. We have a drive-through with two full time greeters that direct the customers and do whatever it takes to improve the customer service experience.

DW: Do you sell CPO vehicles? Please tell us a little bit about this program and how you convey the value of certified vehicles to your customers.

Yes, we do sell CPO. Audi Certified Pre-Owned is very comprehensive; it’s a 300-point inspection. It’s expensive, usually, and it adds quite a bit to our reconditioning costs since it is very strict. However, it gives customers peace-of-mind, and attached to the CPO program is a preferred interest rate that goes along with the warranty to soften the blow on the price for shoppers.

ARC: How do you convey the value of Audi certification to your customers?

There is a whole presentation kit available from the manufacturer that we use when showing our CPO cars. If we have any cars that we don’t certify, due to mileage being too high, or maybe a car that is traded in that is off-make and maybe doesn’t qualify for the CPO program, we explain the difference. It’s actually a pretty easy way to ensure customers are confident in a vehicle.

If a car can be certified, we certify it. We don’t up-sell the certification — if we have faith in the certification process, we let people know right up front. Usually they stop looking at non-certified Audis once we do that presentation.