The used-car background runs deep at Sonic Automotive. Founder and chief executive officer Bruton Smith got his start in used cars, and has passed that tradition on to his children, as well.
And the used-car business was also the starting point for Sonic’s executive vice president of operations, Jeff Dyke, who talked about this with Auto Remarketing in a November interview, explaining the importance of the pre-owned market for the dealership group.
“It’s really the core of our business. And we believe that if you know what you can retail a used car for, you can put more money in that car, you’ll trade for more cars, and ultimately, it’s going to grow your market share on the new-car side,” he said.
“Sort of the center of our universe is the pre-owned business,” Dyke added. “And we think we do that very well. Also, Sonic was the staging platform for us to do a lot of testing with technologies and processes and training in order to bring EchoPark to life.”
EchoPark Automotive, of course, is the pre-owned vehicle retail store concept recently launched by Sonic in the Denver area that Dyke called “kind of a cross between Apple (store) and a Google experience.”
Efforts like EchoPark are among several moves Sonic has made to push used-car operations. That includes remarketing teamwork with Manheim, both on a large and small scale, as well as continued progress in its Sonic Inventory Management System.
Dyke explained that Sonic has focused on moving the wholesaling of vehicles from an individual-store basis to a more centralized approach from the corporate office, which Dyke says leads to greater efficiency.
“We’re trying to centralize everything having to do with inventory management,” he said, “and getting our stores focused on the guests.”
“So one of the other things we’re doing is, we’re taking the wholesaling of cars out of the store’s hand. And we’ve got a retail trade center at our corporate office where we’re wholesaling cars through video across the Manheim lanes.”
Going back to the retail side, Sonic has made the certified pre-owned business a strong focus. But it’s also important to maintain a balance in terms of CPO versus non-CPO, Dyke says.
“It’s obviously a big part of our business,” he said of CPO. “It’s a third of our (used-car) business. We believe that if it becomes more than a third of our business, we’re missing out on more used-car volume in other areas, but it shouldn’t be any less than a third of our business.”
Editor's Note: This story is featured in the January issue of Auto Remarketing, as part of our on-site coverage of the NADA Convention & Expo.