Congrats You Opened A Dealership Now What?
To be in the automotive retail, training and consulting business for 14+ years one would tend to pick up some important business life lessons. At Dealer eTraining I have always kept an open mind when it comes to seeing how a dealership operates. I was fortunate to sell thousands of vehicles in my day and manage multiple dealerships. I was also very fortunate to work with great Owners/GMs and not so great Owners/GMs. One thing that has always baffled me is seeing the difference between a solid, profitable operation and a failing, money losing operation.
Here are some of the things that I WOULD NOT do if I opened a brand new dealership.
No one knows that your dealership exists yet. Your marketing and advertising has not quite stirred a buzz yet. Your traffic is slow. Your product may or may not be hot in the market. Yet you take on this crazy expense. How about managing the people to do their jobs. No one is going to stress out about success or failure of the dealership more than the owner that has to cut a check.
I get it. You want to build Rome in one night. But hey slow down a bit. Do you have disposable pockets? Can you really afford to fail?
Maybe start with 1 sales manager, 1 finance manager, 2-3 sales people, a CRM, NO BDC Manager, NO GM, 1 service manager, 1 service writer, 1 working parts manager, 2 techs and 1 detailer (or outsource a detailer to save money on payroll). Imagine how much bleeding you will stop right away. Hmmmm...
Call me crazy but think of how much inventory you can have for $3,000,000 that can turn very fast and move a respectable profit of about $2000-2500 per unit. If an average used vehicle median price is $20,000 you can have 150 in stock. But wait...there is no room for 150 units in stock. There is only room for 50.
How much money can I save and not have to pay for floor plan? Looks to me like $2,000,000. Now you create a turn strategy with solid merchandising and you will sell 30-40 right away. Your biggest worry will be to replace the inventory. There are many solutions for that. Your investment is $1,000,000 not $2,000,000. You can now drop $10-30k into the right long term tools like vAuto (or similar tools), quality staging and photography and maybe even more advertising sources. Still not $2,000,000. You sell 40 cars in your first month at $2000 per unit for an $80,000 profit. Respectable way to start.
You do whatever it takes to advertise these vehicles. You are on a highway with massive competition which means that you need to do heavy conquest marketing. Remember that crazy $100,000 advertising spend? Let's take $10-15k and go heavy on email marketing campaigns with companies like Cactus Sky or City Twist. I would also go heavy with direct mail in some cases. You want your local demographics to see the brand awareness and really welcome you to the area.
I would go hard with social media with blogging and press releases to promote the dealership and the new cars so that people understand why your brand deserves a chance. I would also start an employee pricing sale promotion to all local businesses (Hospitals, Fire Fighters, Police, Board of Education, Retail Businesses and Professional Services). This involves getting creative and contacting HR departments of businesses. They will gladly let their staff know about the promotion as an added benefit. You will get UPs and phone traffic from it. The investment is just a few hours of your time and creativity.
Make a plan to sell 20 new cars your first month. With all of the advertising mentioned in this section there will be enough traffic to sell at least 20 cars. So let's say you sell 20 @ $1,500 (remember it is new cars) you will only make $30,000. Add that in with the $80,000 you made with used cars now you sold 60 cars and made $110,000 from sales. Hopefully you did not drop more than $25-30k into advertising.
Again, get involved in the community. Offer some aggressive deals on oil changes, wheel & tire work and other basic services. My solution is to do direct mail, email marketing, social media marketing and get involved with sites like Groupon (especially if three of your local competitors are on it). You will make minimal profit on some ROs and take a small loss in the beginning. However if you treat the customers right they will come back.
Initially the service director and 1 service advisor should handle the job. Only 1 person should work parts with the service writer helping out in the beginning. Make a goal for the first month to get an average of 10 customers in the service drive every single day with a goal of $2,000 per day. This should earn roughly $50,000 for the first month.
Eventually when the store is moving 100 units and service is making six figures consistently every month you can build a BDC department with a goal of taking you to the next level. The next level means going from 100 units per month to 150 units and service revenue going from $100,000 a month to $200,000 month. In fact, if you get some solid people to sell cars and work in service you might not need a BDC. If you do go with a BDC think of making it the GRC (Guest Relations Center) as a support department for sales and service. They will be responsible for appointments.
Let's talk facts and figures.
Now you have $110,000 + $50,000 = $160,000 Profit
Keep your costs lower by not employing too many people, having proactive staff that actually works, investing in the right advertising tools and managing your inventory properly. The worst case scenario should be that in the first month you will break even. This is how you can start to see what the potential is and how you can move the needle. With every new month you want to grow the profitability 10-20%. You can now start doing other things to sell and service more cars because the budget can increase. When you look back in 12 months you will be amazed at what you have accomplished.
Think about what happens when you are doing $150,000 in sales and $200,000 in service. $350,000 per month affords you expansion for facility improvements, more staff, a BDC (GRC), better tools, more advertising and more inventory. This is all positive and real world stuff I am talking about. This is a sure way to build a $1 million a month store at some point.
But here is the scary parts of what I have seen. I have seen dealers that sell 30 cars per month barely cracking $50,000 in profit. They do $20,000 in service. They have an expense of $200,000. Is that insane of what? How many months of losing $130,000 can you go before you lose everything? This can happen to anyone.
The key is to really open a new store by being patient and managing the current available reasons. There is nothing scarier than opening a brand new dealership. I have been a manager and director in a brand new store. My owners were smart and broke records every month. In only 9 months our store was doing 250 cars per month.
I sincerely hope that this has been eye opening and entertaining to read. If you are interested in discussing this article please contact me or comment on here. Thank you.