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Black Horse comment

By any measure this has been a hectic year for the motor retail business – new car sales at record levels, used car values stabilising and customer confidence in the industry returning. Each week seems to bring another bullish prediction of record growth and turnover.

What a welcome change from just over 12 months ago when profits were down, dealers were taking a real hammering and prospects looked bleak.

In the circumstances, the industry could perhaps relax and award itself a well-earned break over Christmas. After all, this is traditionally a slow time of year with stock levels low and few customers in the market. Surely, there is little to lose by taking the foot off the gas for a few weeks and waiting for better weather to bring the buyers back.

If only it were that easy. At the risk of being branded a spoilsport, we suggest now is not the time to back off if the industry is to build on its current success and go forward in the new year. Certainly we at Black Horse will not be slackening our efforts to work on your behalf for increased finance penetration, increased margin and better customer satisfaction.

Yes, there probably will be fewer customers around. But that releases time and management resources to concentrate on housekeeping issues such as planning strategy for next year, setting targets and incentives, and looking at long term staff training and development. These are all areas where Black Horse can help.

An important, but often overlooked, task is the cleansing and updating of databases and customer records. A few phone calls during quiet mornings will not only reconnect you with previous buyers who may have drifted away, but could reveal important sales leads in the build up to the critical March 1 plate change.

With two plate changes a year it is important to focus strategy on this first quarter. There are already signs the spring buying peak will soon overtake the more traditional August-September for maximum sales and it is a great opportunity to take early year profit.

Incentives, such as Black Horse's well established Q-points, should play a major role in your plans. They can not only reward successful sales staff but also ensure F&I business is placed with the chosen finance house – thus maximising profit for the business. Q-points are flexible and adaptable to suit your programme; are convertible to cash so they can be used to purchase any reward; and are payable on incremental business and Credit Care sales.

Most dealers will not need reminding of one of the key messages of the past 12 months – this is a cyclical business in which good times and bad times are often only weeks apart. A key to long term success is to plan, be prepared and be ready to seize the opportunities when they arise.

We believe having a strong, independent finance provider as a business partner is an important part of that preparation. Black Horse would like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and we look forward to making next year a successful and prosperous one for you. If you want more details, just call Elaine Black on 0131 311 2123 for more information.

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