As dealers continue to navigate the uncharted waters of this year’s remarkable circumstances, it’s worth noting that many of our retail automotive partners have accomplished the impossible. Facing regional lockdowns, economic downturn, unemployment and changes from one week to the next, dealerships took their sales process from in-person to virtual seemingly overnight. Throughout this journey, Executive Vice President and founder of vAuto, Dale Pollak, explored trends supported by Cox Automotive impact studies while interviewing executive leaders within the various organizations under the Cox Automotive company name. Here’s a look at some of their statements and important takeaways.
Episode 1: Continuity & Recovery Perspectives for Auto Dealers
“…what we’re dealing with right now are really two events. They’re related but they’re different. The first event is a sociological event: It’s essentially fear in the market, fear of infection, and it’s changing our behavior and certainly our buying patterns. And, related to that but different, what we’re on the edge of is an economic downturn.” – Dale Pollak, Executive Vice President and founder of vAuto
Just a few weeks after shelter in place orders impacted businesses, vehicle auctions closed, and the economy grinded to a halt, Dale Pollak penned an Open Letter listing his predictions and advice for auto dealers. He noted that people had never seen unemployment at this scale since post-world war era levels, and that the impacts would likely take up to 18 months for many families to recover. The entire country was just coming to terms with the situation and our experts did their best to predict the smartest moves going forward. In a spirit of coming together, Cox Automotive made a commitment to offer services, best-practices, leadership, and resources to help our community remain resilient.
“The smartest thing (dealers) can do is to reduce their inventory as rapidly as possible…This has everything to do with survival. In any downturn, cash is king. And for most automobile dealers, a large proportion of their cash is tied up in their automobile inventory. “ – Dale Pollak, Executive Vice President and founder of vAuto
Episode 2: Continuity and Recovery Perspectives: Consumer Demand & Industry Insights
After the dust settled from the initial shock of the pandemic, dealers dug deep and formed their game-plan to build fully-functioning, digital options for customers and employees. Dale Pollak’s second episode featured experts who shared advice on personalizing and humanizing the virtual showroom experience, as well as ensuring your dealership’s technology is fully integrated to create a better customer experience that produced the data-driven results you need.
“Think about how much time, energy, and investment you’ve put into making your showroom look incredible and inviting. Now you need to have that same focus online, and make sure that you’re having a two-way dialogue with your customers even though you’re not in the same room. You need to try to be as personal and real as possible at a distance.” – Erica Danford, AVP of Managed Services Dealer.com
“Not every customer wants the same thing from their journey…9 out of 10 are asking for that flexible, personalized process.” – Mo Zahabi, Sr. Director Product Consulting Vin Solutions
“Using integrated solutions really drives efficiency and it eliminates the ‘double entry’ we’ve experienced (at the dealership) for so long between non-integrated solutions. And those all slow down the process and they kill the customer experience. And, at the same time, ‘double entries’ lead to a lot of errors that convolute the already cloudy picture that most data paints for the dealership.” – Mo Zahabi, Sr. Director Product Consulting Vin Solutions
Episode 3: Continuity and Recovery Perspectives for Auto Dealers: Rethinking the Road to the Sale
As sales floors made the move to digital and showrooms became virtual, dealerships saw the long-standing dynamic of sales lead and seller flip on its head. The move shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, however, as more and more of the sales experience was moving online even before the pandemic. As Dale Pollak and his guests point out, the traditional method of buying and selling cars needs to change and sales teams must learn to adapt.
“‘Steps of the Sale’ have already taken place when we’ve been introduced to (the customer). That’s a big change for us. And in many cases, the customer has passed right past the sales floor and landed right at the sales desk working numbers.” – Mark Vickery, Sr. Director Performance Management & Operations
Episode 4: Continuity and Recovery Perspectives for Auto Dealers: Rethink the Service Experience
Two months? Three months? The country held its breath for several months to see if the Initial impacts of shelter-in-place restrictions would be temporary. Unfortunately, impacts like furloughs, layoffs, and an economic downturn began to settle in in the months that followed. The sentiment for dealers had now shifted from resilience to “reimagine,” as dealers were called upon to change three key business areas with their dealership: sales, marketing, and service. As this episode points out, making large-scale changes requires software vendors to step up, as many dealers were accomplishing a move to digital in a matter of days.
“We’re gonna be in this, likely, for awhile, and I just ask everyone to be measured and be tempered in terms of how you reconstitute your business. You all made very difficult decisions to get to where you are today, and you would like to not have to do this sort of thing again. So, be measured, be prudent, be patient, take it day by day.” – Dale Pollak, Executive Vice President and founder of vAuto
“Your vendor partners (including us) have a lot of resources. We want to help, and you should count on this from us…Of course we would love for you to use our tools, the point is less about whose tools you use and more about whether you are taking advantage of the capabilities that exist in the market to enable your business.” – Tracy Fred, VP of Operations, Sales & Service
Episode 5: Leverage Your DMS and Become a Data-driven Dealership: Continuity and Recovery Perspectives
In a remarkable show of resilience, adaptability, and entrepreneurship, dealer groups across the country found their silver lining amid the hardship of COVID-19. Implementing new processes, enhancing customer safety measures, and moving to a new digital sales model, dealers began report growth at the turn of the year. As Dale Pollak and his guests point out in this last episode, becoming data-driven and improving process efficiencies are top-down moves that make a big impact on the entire organization.
“Sales are up, actually, across the country 10% over pre-COVID levels…Retail business has rebounded beyond expectations and, right now, appears to be very strong.” – Dale Pollak, Executive Vice President and founder of vAuto
“The first thing I’ll say about becoming a data-driven organization is that it takes effort…The one thing I’ve come to appreciate is people who welcome accountability. They help strengthen standards, they crave data that allows them to measure progress, and ultimately, they help drive efficiencies in just about every aspect of your business.” – Mandi Fang, VP Operations Back Office and Fixed Ops.
“Process efficiency leads to cash flow, and cash flow can power significant business growth.” – Kate Gavin, VP Operations Titling Solutions