Access: Velocity Day 1: Integration, Insights and Inspiration

October 10, 2014

I spoke to a couple dealers as yesterday’s Access: Velocity sessions ran down. A key sentiment: They, like me, felt a touch of information overload from today’s agenda.

The following are some of the high-level take-aways I gleaned from today’s sessions with Cox Automotive executives and our dealer speakers, as well as in-the-hall conversations:

A fulfillment of Cox Automotive’s responsibility to dealers: One of Access: Velocity’s objectives is to provide shared access and learnings from Cox’s leadership team, and to provide attendees a glimpse of how the company is tackling the challenge of providing better services and solutions to help them be more successful. The panel discussions addressed the future on both the wholesale and retail sides of our business:

1. Auctions “will look very different.” Cox Automotive CEO Sandy Schwartz made this point in discussing how Manheim will move from a largely physical, “event-based” marketplace to one where digital sales can occur 24/7 and vehicles aren’t necessarily sold from Manheim facilities. The company is also exploring ways to make the transport of vehicles to/from auctions, and the sales themselves, more efficient and less-costly for dealers. “We can drive your bottom lines up by driving your costs down,” says Joe George, senior vice president and chief strategy office for Cox Automotive.

2. A greater degree of integration. Cox Enterprises CEO John Dyer discussed a “cradle to grave” strategy that would include an array of digitally based, integrated solutions to help dealers derive more value from their investment in Cox Automotive solutions. Other executives highlighted the new ListingLogic tool for dealers, and efforts to link VinSolutions CRM and vAuto Provisioning data as examples of the broader strategy.

Used vehicle pricing as science. I was impressed by dealer speaker Trent Waybright’s efforts to make non-emotional, data-based decisions for pricing used vehicles at Kelley Automotive Group in Fort Wayne, Ind. His efforts, which effectively tie pricing decisions to Vehicle Details Page (VDP) views, ROI and past Price To Market transaction data for specific vehicles, have helped him achieve a 50 percent increase in the number of VDPs/vehicle his inventory receives, and consistently turn his 300-plus vehicle inventory 18 times a year.

The ETF&M formula. Dealer Adam Arens of Patriot Subaru, Saco, Maine, shared some of the reasons why his dealership won top honors in last year’s Automotive News’ Best Dealerships To Work competition. Part of the success owes to his efforts to teach managers how to find and hire candidates who fit the dealership’s culture and demonstrate initiative, leadership and organization in past positions. His team looks for employees who will be Enthusiastic, Trustworthy, Friendly and have a high-running Motor

Perhaps the highlight of the day, at least for me, came when our special guest speaker, Eric Weihenmayer, brought tears to many Access: Velocity attendees as he described the challenges and triumphs he’s faced after going blind as a teenager. He was inspiring as he described how he strives to live a “No Barriers” life that includes record-setting mountain climbs and whitewater rafting adventures. I especially liked this quote: “What’s inside of us is stronger than what’s in our way.”