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Dealers learn to navigate recession

November 10, 2010

During this recession, dealers have learned to focus on alternative revenue streams to survive. Here are some successful strategies:

• Reaching out to fleets and other high-volume customers. Zip Cars and other fleet vehicles all boost service volume. Dealer Bud SmailSmail Automotive Group, Greensburg, Pa., also maintains solid relationships with a host of insurers that send him body shop customers. And he includes information about his body shop in advertisements for his 10 franshises and in dealer information to customers.

• Investing in employee training. "Now, dealers are getting serious about training and the follow-up process," said Don Groppetti, head of Groppetti Automotive in Visalia Calif. "They realize this is a way to add value and differentiate themselves from competitors."

• Pointing out posh interiors. If consumers believe they are buying higher-end products, they’ll look for fewer incentives, says consultant Tony Allison of Crowe’s Retail Dealer.

• Finding new ways to operate. Ryan Johnson, general manager of Johnson Auto Plaza in Brighton, Colo., invested in two 750-gallon gas wagons (one diesel, one regular). Now, the dealership saves by buying gas in bulk, and employees don’t have to drive cars to the gas station for fill-ups.