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The Dealer Factor

November 11, 2011
By Jim Smail, AIADA Chairman
With the end of the vehicle model year in full swing and with the production ramp-up by Japanese automakers, car shoppers have plenty of options this fall. But dealers wonder: Are Americans ready to buy?
The latest numbers show that the economy grew 2.5 percent in the third quarter, up from 1.3 percent in the second quarter. And although the unemployment rate seems to be stuck at about 9 percent, U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 6 percent in October from the year-earlier level. The fourth quarter outlooks of economists (typically so effervescent) are mixed.
As we close in on the industry’s estimated 12.7 million units of sales for 2011, remember that dealers are more important than ever.
Our visibility and involvement in our communities, our dedication to customer service, and our understanding of our unique marketplace is what will move metal in the year’s final months. Dealers who take a back-to-basics approach to selling vehicles, and who recommit themselves to their customers, will benefit from pent up demand and improved inventory.
Remember, cars on America’s roads today are the oldest they’ve been in 15 years (on average, 10.2 years). For many families, a new car is looking less like a luxury and more like a necessity. It is up to us to get them in the right vehicle and happy with the end result.
Making those sales will mean hiring and retaining great salespeople. It will mean keeping current on marketing trends. And it will mean staying involved in the community and charitable events. Those habits, and that energy, combine to create what I like to call The Dealer Factor.
The Dealer Factor is the hard-to-pinpoint ingredient that keeps our industry humming along, even when the economic outlook is uncertain. The Dealer Factor is what drives some brands to worldwide success, and what keeps others alive long after they might have collapsed. Dealers understand their neighborhoods, customers, and products. We are the link between manufacturers and customers, and we are the industry’s best hope for recovery.
The Dealer Factor involves thinking outside of the box, and understanding the issues that matter to your customers. I am consistently impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of my peers. These are the disciplines that worked for dealers in the 1950s and ’60s, and they will work for us now.
Let’s build on the momentum we have, and end this year on a high note.