July Success Stories

August 5, 2008

Amidst all the turmoil in the market, I see case after case where dealerships defy all the odds.

By anyone’s account Ford is struggling, and Peoria, Illinois is not exactly a shining mecca of wealth and prosperity. Yet, Jeff Green’s medium sized Finishline Ford knocked it out of the park in July. Give credit to General Manager/Partner, Bill Pearson. Bill’s got it all under control. He told me that last month they had 900 dealership inquiries (walk-in, telephone, email) from AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, 38,000 detail page views, which resulted in 119 used retail sales, with a 127 unit stock. Moreover, his total used gross profit was $70,000 above June’s results.

What is particularly gratifying about Bill’s performance is that in May, we created a strategy for this success. Don’t get me wrong, all the credit goes to Bill, he knew what to do, he was just looking for a little validation from me. What was decided back then was that he would blow-out all gas-guzzling inventory whose value had tanked. Yes, this meant absorbing a significant amount of loss. What Bill understood, however, was that people were still willing to buy these vehicles, but at a lower price point. We agreed that Bill’s early response to these losers would position him favorably in the later summer and fall months. Specifically, we speculated that his competition would be sitting with old units in July and August that were significantly over the money, while Bill was sitting pretty with a lot full of vehicles that he could sell for thousands less than his competitors.

At the end of June, Bill called me and asked for reassurance that he had done the right thing. While he had sold a large number in June, He didn’t make any money. We reviewed the strategy and agreed that this was the expected result and that the coming months of July, August and September should be the payday for what was his present pain. Sure enough, July came in as a big winner. Just as Bill had planned, he was able to knock out the competition by selling units for thousands less than his competitors while making significant gross. I give Bill a lot of credit for his forethought and conviction for suffering the pain to achieve these results. I also give Jeff Green, his partner, enormous respect for understanding the market and backing Bill’s plan, congratulations to Finishline Ford.

Yet another July success was Acton Toyota in Acton, Massachusetts. OK, you might say “yeah, but its Toyota,” but if you do, you’d be wrong. While Toyota is a great brand, it too was down in July and is perhaps one of the most competitive franchises anywhere. Moreover, the northeast is one of the most competitive Toyota markets in the country. Earlier this week, I received the following note from Craig Belowski of Acton Toyota.

Thank you for the recognition! We are currently tied for 1st in TCUV for the year and finished in 1st for the month with a 10 car lead at 92.

We are fortunate to have the team we have, it’s great to be a part of.

Jeff, our used car manager just got back from a Toyota conference in Santa Barbara, where we were the only dealer in our region selected. It’s great to be recognized as a leader in a category so important as providing an excellent experience. He picked up a few new ideas that we are already starting to put in play.

The volume is coming and we will hold the #1 spot in certified, the new car volume is only November away with the arrival of our new facility!

It would be a pleasure to have you out to share some techniques and information with each other as we are proud to have you and vAuto as a huge part of our success. The support, motivation and coaching I receive from Dan Winchester and the rest of your team remain top notch and we continue to grow in our knowledge and use of the system every month.

What Craig and the Acton Toyota team understands, perhaps better than anyone else in their region, is that the used car business is the internet business. When it comes to knowing how to use the internet to run a highly-successful used car department, these guys are king.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the continued success of Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda. In July, they sold 154 certified used Honda’s, putting them over 1,100 for the year. At this pace, they will likely exceed 2,000 certified used Hondas for calendar year 2008. Take a look at the latest letter that he just received from American Honda.

Brian, I’m forwarding this note just so you can see that Paragon is recognized nationally for the job you and your team do. So, I guess that challenge is on….I know you can get to 2,000 !!
As always congratulations for leading the Nation and for all you do.

Regards, Adam

Mike Puckett, the used car director of the Premiere Auto Collect, an 11 store group in Mt. Kisco, NY, reports both record June and July results. In Puckett’s words, “We’re selling expensive, gas-guzzling luxury cars.” Their group consists of 4 Volvo, 2 VW, 1 BMW, 1 Audi, 2 Land Rover and 1 Jaguar stores. Mike told me that in 2006, they averaged 125 used retail, in 2007 -143, and in 2008 – 164. When Mike joined this group, he walked into a very tough situation with respect to markets and brands. To his credit, he has steadily managed the metrics and motivated the managers to achieve steady improvement.

OK, just so you don’t think that success is limited to the great franchises or big markets, let me tell you about July for Henry Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, of Henry, Illinois. Owner, Joe Gilsdorf told me that they had a record-breaking July. They sold 5 new units and 54 used retail. OK, here’s the thing. Henry, Illinois is a town of 2,436 people.

That’s right, I said two-thousand, four-hundred and thirty-six people. When I asked Joe if that was really the correct population, he told me that Marylou is expecting twins at any time now, so he might be a couple off.

I think that used car production is completely under our own control. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I am saying that it’s doable. You have to do a lot of things right, particularly with respect to the internet, but they’re all things that are under our control. Most of all, however, I’m convinced that the used car business is a business of discipline, and discipline #1 is having a strict, no exception age policy.

Don’t take my word for these results, below you’ll find contact information for each of the referenced individuals. I would encourage you to call them and talk about what makes their operation so successful. I would also be interested in hearing from you about your success, challenges or questions.

– Dale

Bill Pearson, Finishline Ford, [email protected]

Craig Belowski, Acton Toyota, [email protected]

Mike Puckett, Premiere Auto Collection, [email protected]

Joe Gilsdorf, Henry Chevrolet, [email protected]