Two old-timers teach the industry a new trick

October 21, 2009

Every day I become more convinced that the ability to source used vehicles is and will continue to be the core competency of a successful used car operation. Simply waiting for trades or going to the local auction won’t get the job done.

As many of you know, I’ve been running stocking analyst training classes around the country. We performed one in Chicago last week and another yesterday and today in Charleston, South Carolina. These classes are well attended and the participants have given us tremendous feedback. Most importantly, these managers are going back to their dealerships and finding it much easier to identify and source vehicles that are right for their markets and their check books.

Unfortunately, the effort required to do the work necessary is not feasible in traditionally managed dealerships. Used car managers at such dealerships are too busy and unfamiliar with the technique and tools necessary to get the job done. This is why I’m absolutely convinced that it requires a trained sourcing specialist. This morning, I was introduced to an interesting and novel approach by Don Elliott in Houston (three dealerships) and Dwaine Taylor of Murray, Kentucky (two dealerships). These two innovative dealers have started a separate company called Sun Star. The new entity started out as a centralized BDC serving their stores. They are now ready to expand Sun Star to include stocking analyst services for their dealerships. They have found, and I concur that marketing and stocking functions can be performed remotely and across multiple dealerships, even under separate ownership. This new cross enterprise approach makes a lot of sense to me in light of the current market challenges and needs. Specifically, they’re able to get marketing and used vehicle sourcing functions performed by highly trained specialists under a shared cost environment. At some time in the future, they will consider opening their enterprise to other dealers who see the merit in their approach, and/or are not able to bear the expense on their own.

This is the kind of stuff that gives me confidence in the future of our industry. Both Elliott and Taylor are in their mid to late 60s, but are thinking and acting like guys in their 20s. It’s not necessarily the sort of thing that they would have hoped to be doing at this point in their career, but to their credit they’re willing to embrace the new environment, be creative and succeed. Congratulations to these two guys and others that are willing to adapt and embrace the new environment.

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