The UK’s automotive industry is anything but predictable, but one thing dealers do know is there will be a sales surge twice a year in the plate-change months of March and September.
While September isn’t always as strong as March, dealers will be looking to take advantage of the increased marketing support, campaigns and increased footfall.
John Miskin, Sportif Citroën managing director, has been preparing his two Citroën sites and his Suzuki dealership for the extra strain for the past couple of months.
That preparation has been helped with Miskin’s franchises which he believes have now got their act together to help balance supply and demand.
Miskin said: “We’ve gone through phases of over supply as well as a lack of production, but manufacturers have really got their act together now. We know what’s going to be available so it’s much easier for us to plan.“We make sure we always sell from stock rather than from what’s being built in the factory.”
Getting in the right vehicles at the right time is a difficult challenge, but doing it successfully can help manage expectations and create reasonable turnaround times for customers that are looking to get into a new car, helping lift customer satisfaction.
Jason Claridge, general sales manager at Motorbodies Vauxhall Luton, said: “We like to set our quarters out with the team so everybody knows what’s expected of them.
“The main challenges we face with the plate-change is turning the used car stock for the part-exchanges that come in and then balancing stock with cash flow. We need to work hard to boost footfall with limited marketing budgets.”
Claridge said staff motivation and getting sales teams psyched up for the challenge has a major part to play. He said: “You’ve got to make sure they’re wearing a smile. There’s less opportunity coming through the door and finding the motivational patterns of your staff and giving them solid direction is essential. Get them involved in the business and keep them informed of exactly where you’re positioned.”
Claridge said predicting the right colour and spec for each new car customer was impossible, but he handles that by monitoring the fastest moving manufacturer product lines and cross references them with manufacturer programmes to replace sold units once a week.
Motorbodies uses the Vauxhall part-exchanges it gets in as part of its used stock, but puts non-franchised vehicles out through the trade.
Both dealer groups use WinWin World, the process management company,
to help target customers for the plate-change.
Miskin said: “The thing that sets WinWin apart is that they’re adaptable. The market has changed considerably over the past 18 months and they’ve adapted to those changes. You’d have to go three times round the world to get a DMS to change.
“We can go to them with a problem and they can point out the solution with what we’ve already got or they can develop something specific for us.”
Sportif uses WinWin World’s Win IT for lead management, Track IT for accurate deal calculations and Keep IT for marketing and prospecting.
Miskin said: “They’re invaluable for keeping in touch with our customers and targeting the correct ones.”
WinWin provide Sportif with a dedicated consultant who helps pinpoint how the systems can best serve the dealer.
Before using WinWin, Sportif made sure its database had been cleansed so that when time came to target customers, it was in the best shape possible. Miskin said: “It doesn’t matter how good your systems are if the data you put in is bad, you’ll only get bad results from it.”
Using WinWin’s database which integrates with Sportif’s own DMS, the dealership can target the right customers for renewal that are in the three-year finance category and looking to change or customers with vehicles where the residuals are at a point where it would make sense for them to change.
Motorbodies has only just got involved with WinWin World after agreeing to a three-month pilot which was suggested through Vauxhall. The company was previously working out how profitable deals were for the business using “a calculator and lots of pieces of paper”.
Claridge said: “We’re only two weeks into using the system, but the best thing about it is that you can look at the different deals when putting together a sale and it evaluates complex finance packages and manufacturer bonuses to determine the best possible profit for the dealer.
“It allows you to pick the best route for the most money. We’ve got it linked up with our diary system so we can target customers in our database.”
WinWin are IT specialists with motor trade experience – another deciding factor for Sportif and Motorbodies.
Motorbodies is involved with a two- day plate-change special event which has 90 appointments confirmed. The group will use WinWin to stack pricing for each appointment giving the management team full visibility of what the best deal is to retain maximum profitability for the business.
Claridge pinpoints customers using WinWin to target specifics based on the needs of the dealership. He said: “We can highlight our over-age new car stock and it will link with our diary system to build an offer based on the information supplied. It allows you to look up quotes that have been offered and then revisit them.”
It’s all well and good targeting the right customers, but there’s got to be fresh new product to peek their interest. Luckily Citroën has its new DS3 and Vauxhall has its new Astra and Meriva.
Miskin is expecting the sales success of Citroën’s DS3 to continue into the September-plate change month.
He said: “The DS3 has been a fantastic injection of heroin in terms of profit for the Citroën network.”
Sportif will be looking to maximise test drives in the DS3 this September, as Miskin believes this is enough to sell the car on its own.
He said: “As soon as customers get out from behind the wheel they’ve always got a massive smile on their face, so it’s never a hard sell and we don’t discount.
“It also helps that you’ve got people like Jeremy Clarkson telling people on Top Gear that’s it’s better than the Mini.”