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Hugh Casiano



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Profiting from the educated car buyer...

With the recent recovery in the automotive market, banks, finance companies and lenders overall seem to be lightening up on what once felt like an iron curtain for credit approval. Although the market is better and restrictions are more realistic, good credit is commonly not enough. While new car dealerships spend millions each year to drive traffic to their locations, it can still be a challenge to get a buyer into the car of their dreams. By the time the consumer is handed the keys it is likely they have withstood a barrage of numbing hurdles that can make that new car purchase less of a joy and more like a visit to the dentist.

A stable job, reasonable credit to income ratio and a solid payment history commonly translates to an intelligent, structured individual. Catering to this market is not as difficult as it may seem, however, there is no free money on the table and you can bet that they are savvy enough to know the difference between ‘snake oil’ and value.

Profit is not a bad word and the smarter dealers are focusing on value driven products and services to survive the new age of the car business and the well informed, educated buyer. A dealer added addendum (items preloaded on the vehicle, by the dealer, then added to the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price on a separate price list) is not only a competitive edge, it is also a great source for gross profits. However, be aware that the days of the $200 pin stripe and $1200 ‘one time forever’ waxes are all but over. Consumers are chatting in forums and sharing information at lightning speed. Knowledge is power and our target market is well armed with valuable information and customer experiences right at their fingertips. Dealers who underestimate the consumer’s intelligence will probably not earn their loyalty.

Recently I was online and came across a new car buyer who had purchased a ‘high definition windshield treatment’… sounded pretty interesting. They had the product installed on their new car because they were sold on its’ strengthening and visual benefits. As fate would have it, a couple of weeks after the installation, the windshield cracked and the consumer’s confidence was shaken. Experiencing a little buyer’s remorse, they went online to research the product. The consensus was that the product the dealer installed was suspiciously similar to an over the counter, do it yourself treatment that was available in the local auto parts store at less than a tenth of the cost.

Although the buyer’s story was interesting, what caught my attention was the string of unflattering comments that followed the original post. The dealer’s name was repeatedly associated with the negativity related to their experience. The buyer was given comprehensive and detailed directions on how to utilize the dealer survey, involve the Better Business Bureau and even contact information for the local news advocate. Realistically, the dealer more than likely made some concession to the buyer, the product’s merits were probably misinterpreted, however, once online, the damage was already done. In this case, the dealer and/or product fell short of justifying the value of the service after the purchase and it could not have been worth whatever profit was made on the deal.

My company is investing heavily into products and services that cater to the intelligent buyer. I believe that this is only the beginning of the changes that are coming in automotive consumer spending. We are focusing exclusively on products that will withstand short and long term scrutiny, offered at a value that is acceptable to the consumer and consistent with their expectations. Further, we are introducing strategic customer retention programs that include high quality products and services applied by professionally trained technicians. We are making the assumption that every client we target is intelligent, informed and looking to place their long term loyalty in the hands of people who earn it. Smart offers made by smart people, catering to smart buyers will win over this next generation of consumers.

As an example, we have gone to great lengths to offer a premium window tinting product that is exclusively available to new car dealerships. It is manufactured by the largest window tinting manufacturer in the world and is an updated version of their most elite product. Two years in the making, we believe there is no better material for this application available today. We now offer computer generated patterns for optimal consistency, a dual layer composition with an advanced adhesive system for installation ease and durability and constructed on a premium poly-material base that insures the highest level of clarity with a soothing hue for driver comfort. The benefits of window tinting are obvious to those who live in the sunbelt, however, the long term, subtle quality differences have proven to be noticeable and appreciated.

We also provide a professional detail program that combines the quality service of a high end, boutique detail shop with the convenience of a dealership. Premium paint sealants and interior protection treatments are periodically applied using the best installation equipment, applied by well trained professionals. We are heavily invested in training and support staff to guarantee the consistency of our products and services. Our structured pricing guidelines provide a value that can build consumer confidence and our attractively designed point of purchase literature truthfully explains the overall benefits of our program. No unrealistic promises, just honest value that manages the consumer’s expectations.

This isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a snapshot of what it takes for one company to be in today’s car business and hopefully prosper in the future. My best advice is to take the time to see, touch and taste what you are offering your clients. Some of the sharpest people I know are in the car business. However, I am sure the dealer that was bashed by the windshield client spent thousands of dollars in targeted advertising to get that consumer through their doors. They managed to successfully sell a car and even make a profit on additional services. By all counts this sale was a success. Unfortunately, the negative experience probably received more attention than the paid advertising used to capture the well educated, consumer.

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