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A move from selling cars to taking orders

Dealers have to mix their promotions through the use of both in-dealership offers and online offers.

And they have to be consistent.

Seebaluck said very recently there were four competitors of relevance to him working online.

Now that number is 15.

Ford has just installed John Leeman as operations director at Ford Retai Group

He said: “We prioritise service and honesty so that customers get the best deal possible and return to us.

"That is part of the reason that we managed to outperform last year with an 18% rise in sales across 65 dealerships.”

BMW changed its working practices some time ago.

The German company went as far as scrapping the word salesman.

That self-same employee is now referred to as the product genius.

His first job is to say hello and then wait until the visitor is settled and comfortable and in the mood to say why he was in the store.

“We do not sell a car.

"Our salesmen are purely there to demonstrate the options,” said a spokesman.

“They are not incentivised in any way to sell a car.

"They are there to make sure that the person who has walked into our store for the first time gets what he wants.

“We remove all the pressure,” he added.

The technique is now being applied across the country.

Cascading information

Audi says the same thing.

“It is more about working out what the visitor wants,” said a spokesman.

“If the customer is making a big purchase he is not going to be happy taking something that he did not really want.

"We never sell.”

In Germany now, Audi has a training school that uniformly coaches its salesmen from all over the world.

It flies in sales team leaders from all territories, gives them the training and teaches them how to cascade the information down through the sales forces.

“What is drummed into all of them is that they are not there to sell.

"They are there to enable customers to buy what they want.”

And after the sale, every customer has the opportunity to provide feedback.

If there is any indication that the customer has been involuntarily ‘sold up’ the system goes into damage limitation mode.

‘Selling-up’ has become a dirty phrase at the thinking man’s end of the market.

“Customers know what they want,” said David Ingram, PR manager at Audi UK.

“We do hold stocks of new cars.

"Dealers will hold some cars speculatively, but that is because experience allows them to forecast what the local demand is likely to be.

"It’s a case of matching stock to the territory.”

So it’s a case of buying one of the few cars that is on display or waiting four of five months for delivery of the exact spec.

That waiting period can, of course, be much reduced by anticipation of the need for a change and ordering in good time.

The prevalence of lease contracts means that customers can predict exactly when they will want a new car and can spec it up at a time that matches with forecast delivery dates.

“This is why we have the Piccadilly showroom in London,” said Ingram.

“All our major showrooms are as busy as ever and it is clear that we will have another record year.

"We have another record year and a 6.5% share of our available market.

“The year to date sales total is 38,000 cars, which is 17% up on the same period last year.

"The customers are still coming in and we are as busy as ever.

"While the volume brands are struggling we have had no slackening of demand.”

There is a tasty lure for potential buyers coming down the slope.

“Connectivity is what the customer needs next.

He wants accurate real-time traffic information and he wants weather reports for his destination,” said Ingram.

It’s a pretty safe bet that British business users will want those.

There are still a few areas where selling up is far from breaking down.

Black box breakthrough for dealers

Cutting-edge technology is being offered to dealers to put them ahead of the battle to win a greater slice of aftersales and
accident repair business.

Scarred by an ongoing court case that saw it lose millions of pounds and come off the London Stock Exchange, Accident Exchange has launched a new ‘black box’ business called In-Car Cleverness, funded through a £1 million investment and 10 years’ experience of the telematics market.

Its system, branded OnBoard, tracks data on the performance of a vehicle, wear and tear levels and damage, providing up-to-the-minute insight for owner and dealer, providing the latter with key customer contact and revenue earning opportunities.

Guiding the £100m turnover Accident Exchange through its ‘reinvention’ is chief executive Steve Evans.

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  • Jeff Jarvis. - 20/05/2013 15:15

    Good God, Have you all been asleap for the last 35years? Nothing has changed.

  • Rob Hegarty - 21/05/2013 10:54

    Salesmen now to be called "product genius",what, on a £10k basic ? Some genius. Does this now mean that we are to refer to the 'customers' as ' car buddies' ? Order takers are salesmen who won't /can't be lead by their manager. The person who wrote the article has clearly never had a £100k car go fully paid. Makes me so mad I'm coming back to manage a retail showroom a.s.a.p to show them how it's done, and yes it can be fun for the 'customer' !

    • Jeff - 21/05/2013 11:18

      @Rob Hegarty - Good on Rob

    • Rob Hegarty - 21/05/2013 11:37

      @Rob Hegarty - these people have also never been on the end of the phone when the manufacturer tells them on the last day of the month that you have to register another 15 cars to make your' revised' target, F&i targets only get met on consistent 'physical' business too, if I remember ( twas just yesterday) the general public do quite like a deal on a car thats in front of them too. Which dealer group adopts the " you are not here to sell" approach ?, I thoght not.......