Where to buy fuel efficient cars

July 3, 2008

Yesterday, I got a call from a reporter doing a story on how dealers are coping with the relatively sudden change in consumer demand for small fuel efficient vehicles. Specifically, the reporter asked me where dealers go to buy the same vehicles that everyone else is looking for.

My response was that there is no magic answer or secret stash of these vehicles to be found. Rather, the answer for dealers attempting to change the configuration of their inventory lies in their ability to identify less obvious vehicles that are in high demand in their market. Obviously everyone knows that Honda Civic’s and Toyota Corolla’s are the “hot items,” and even some more astute managers recognize the Ford Focus and Chevy Cobalt as very strong contenders. Fewer dealers, however, realize that 2007 PT Cruisers are very hot ,as are ‘07 Dodge Calibers, ’05 Saturn IONs, ’02-’04 Chevy Cavaliers and 2005 Dodge Neon’s. Specifically, take a look at the top 20 highest volume compact vehicles in Chicago as of 9:42am, July 3rd. Some of these less obvious vehicles represent the best opportunity to adjust inventories to meet consumer’s new fuel efficient preferences.

Now, I realize that some of you would just as soon suck on razor blades than stock PT Cruiser’s or other “off brands” but you really need to “get over it.” We’re operating in an environment unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and I can assure you that continuing to operate in your own zone of comfort is not a winning strategy. Take comfort in the fact that technology is available that can help you minimize the risk when you moved to vehicle types with which you’re less familiar.

For example, right now my assistant and I are looking at a screen that tells us that in the ’07 PT Cruiser category, the highest volume mover is the Touring SUV having sold 82 vehicles over the last 45 days, but the Touring Convertible has only sold 13 vehicles in that same time period, and the GT SUV and Wagons have sold none. So, with this type of knowledge, it is a relatively safe bet to experiment with some ’07 Touring SUV’s, but you’ll know to stay away from the GT SUV’s and Wagons.

Now, I’m sure that even with this information some of you are still thinking, no way am I going to go out and buy PT Cruisers and put them on my lot. Well, if you’re a high-line luxury dealer, I might agree with you because I don’t think you’d get much natural traffic for these types of vehicles. If, however, you’re most any other type of dealer and still feel this way, then I think that you need to reexamine your own preparedness to succeed in today’s business.

I know that I’ve put a relatively tough challenge to many readers, but I honestly believe we all need to re-think a lot of things and change our ways if we’re going to survive. I am very interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts on this posting. Whether you agree or disagree, let me hear from you. Also, if you want to get this top 20 list for your market, send me an email directly and I’ll get it to you right away ([email protected]).