Its fascinating and revealing when you sit with folks ask a few questions, and basically get a litany of excuses, interesting enough they all have a level of validity.
Often the one thing you don't see, or hear is a "heart thumping" desire to win, especially from folks at the retail level.
If you tell anyone that "you play the game to win", you get a bewildered look.
Auto Business in Canada
Sales records on top of sales records, let's be candid the auto business in Canada is good. Everyone in the auto business does well, simply because business is good, and CMS (Citizen Main Street) keeps on buying or leasing new vehicles.
The fact that business is good is a great equaliser, and the rising tide floats everyone's boat.
Agreed...we all know there is a ton of technology, processes, software. Yes...the younger generation of "digital natives" is "tech savvy". Yes...there is a downside to all this technology, especially when folks start focusing on the technology for the sake of technology.
If by now you are not tired of digital here, Internet there, this platform, that other application, to name just a few. If you are not tired yet, perhaps you are hiding somewhere.
We all have smart devices, tablets, laptops, PC's, WiFi, high speed internet, connected cars. Again to name just a few.
If you have not figured out that the bulk of your digital traffic is from a smart device...and need someone to tell you...there is a problem.
Its a constant and the same for everyone. Reflect on this for a moment. Is there a competitive advantage?
As we often say, its the people that make the difference, they literally make all the difference. While providing a competitive advantage, or disadvantage. The excuses and reasonings all hold some validity to increase the confusion.
Navigating technology, details, processes are routine tasks, to enhance the experience of interfacing with people.
Often business, and acquiring a competitive advantage becomes an exercise of controlling variables. The rampant technology is there to decrease the variables, not increase them. The technology is supposed to perform a myriad of routine tasks to decrease the variables.
Desire to Win
Honing a keen desire to win enhances the competitive advantage in an environment where most are using the same tools, deploying the same strategies, and tactics.
Can you teach the desire to win...perhaps. But it helps when an individual has "fire in the belly" to start.
Can you measure the desire to win? Absolutely.
Think of all the data/information/numbers that resides on a server or on a cloud somewhere. By now we all know there are gazillion bits and bites of data all over the place.
One thought vector in the auto business is to better connect all this data, to curate the data in a fashion that it generates improved results, is more productive.
If at first blush it seems like a daunting task...and it is. A system here, another there, this plugged into that, the other not compatible with this one. While everyone talks about their small sandbox and misses the opportunity of the big sandbox.
Then you have a pundit here, an expert there, this round table discussion, that invited guest. To make it even more interesting.
Invariably the Internet rears its head, the connected customer, Millennials, smart devices, and on and on to fill volumes, and a couple of clouds. The capture service for this, the syndication service for that, the boundaries to monetise this activity.
We are selling analytics short if we stop there. The data and methods embedded in analytical approaches offer more. They offer the ability to explore unexpected relationships that may not only solve the immediate puzzle and climb the top of a local hill, but also find unforeseen options. from MIT Sloan
If you are a customer your head is spinning one way, if you are a dealer its often spinning in a different direction. Reflect on this for a moment.
As we move towards self driving or autonomous vehicles, on what basis will driving decisions be made? An informative and thought provoking video.
There was or perhaps there still is a saying "If you want deeper insight into a dealer look at their used car department". Take a quick look at how any dealer runs/manages its used car department and comes to terms with the myriad of variables and software that is available in 2015.
The unique feature of the retail auto business is that dealers after 100 years are still "horse traders" and will continue to be horse traders for the foreseeable future.
The used car department is where a dealer washes out his deals.
Reflect on this for a moment, a dealer sells a vehicle, while taking another vehicle in trade as partial payment. At some point the dealer must convert the trade in (partial payment) back to money to recoup the full payment of the first vehicle.
The dealer must wash out his original deal to recoup all the money. After decades, generations, the auto business still assigns an "A" to the stock number of the first trade in, subsequently a "B" and so on. With all the technology some things never change.
Can I create a retail customer with this trade in?
Simple question that every dealer should ask for every trade in. Agreed...with the available technology, platforms, opinions, experts, the simple question becomes complex to answer.
Not only create a retail customer, but how fast.
The faster, the better, there is a partial payment tied up in this trade in.
Back in the day, reconditioning was the process of putting value back into a used vehicle to get more money for the vehicle, and have a satisfied retail customer.
Today with market prices, reconditioning walks a fine line. Is the customer seeking a competitive market price, or a correctly reconditioned vehicle with added value for a higher price.
Certified Pre Owned
In 2015 CPO is the equivalent of the correctly verified and reconditioned (putting value back) vehicles. In Canada CPO is a process that initiated a generation ago. Its not new.
If I don't want to create a retail customer with this trade in?
Certain vehicles that must be taken in trade do not fit the retail profile for a myriad of reasons. If you don't want to create a retail customer, then you must create a wholesale customer for the trade in to convert it back to money.
I tried to create a retail customer and it did not work?
Now the mind games start, even with all the technology the extent of the human mind games, by the various stakeholders is fascinating.
At this point and time its a retail fail.
Absorbing a loss...really?
To be a successful, competitive horse trader, entails being mature to take losses on vehicles. Where ever the loss originated.
Its usually where a ton of folks go into denial mode.
Stick to the plan...really?
The plan goes back generations, its the same plan, now empowered and facilitated by technology.
Time...an immense really?
We all know or should know that technology compresses time. With all the technology that is available to operate and manage a used car department. Time is profoundly compressed, as well as offering a competitive advantage.
The auto business remains captivating, exciting, even after decades.
Way back in the day it was all human. There was no technology, it was all done by hand; powered by human intelligence, foibles, and even larceny at times.
Today its the complete opposite, its all technology, human intelligence is deployed to understand, and function within the confines of the technology. Agreed...technology is great, can perform a myriad of detail work, free up time, empower the customer.
It should be easier, faster, seamless, frictionless to do deals in a showroom.
As Boomers move on, and Gen X'rs have been around for a while, the focus is on Millennials as the next wave of substantial customer base for the auto business.
Agreed...the cloud is bursting with a gazillion thoughts on technology, Millennials, social media, and whatever other thought vector is the flavor of the day.
Looking ahead to 2020, reflect on the following.
Have an innate understanding of Millennials. Yes...the parent of Millennials are Boomers. For some reason it gets lost in the dust, as if Millennials came about by themselves.
Evolved with technology from birth, they are digital natives. Their Boomer parents provided them with a myriad of technology devices, Internet access, WiFi, video games, and big screen TV's to name a few. In addition to vehicles.
They have been digitally empowered for decades. The Internet, features phones, smart phones, video games, flat screen TV's, PC's, laptops. Millennials have had a ton of hardware, and then a myriad of social platforms to network.
People to People:
As we are empowered, immersed, swamped by technology, we still do business "people to people" or we should be doing business on a personal basis to arrive at a higher level.
Its an absolute digital festival that is fascinating, encouraging, and perhaps a little dehumanising.
There is technology for this, an app for that, a visual for this other thing, an integration there, we could keep on going...you surely get the overall picture.
Although on many levels its encouraging to witness, experience and live with the advances in technology, we remain humans. Yes...we are empowered, and compete with technology. Usually being aware of the empowerment, while overlooking the compete aspect.
In the auto business we all experienced a learning curve, from robots in assembly lines, CAD to engineer a vehicle, DMS at the dealer level, to smart devices in the hands of customers. We usually focus on the technology, how to use this, how to operate that, how to develop and "xyz" strategy for this other thing.
When you think about it, its a snippet here, a morsel there, a couple of lines somewhere else. Its easy to understand or supposed to be, its easy to sell, and for some easy to monetise.
Its a process here, another there, and aided by technology the processes are supposed to be consistent, repeatable, measurable. If you are in the auto business at the retail level, reflect on this for a moment. You have a myriad of technology and processes from the showroom, to the service and parts department, to the accounting department, to the BDC (business development center) and so on.
While the prospect / customer is also loaded with the technology.
Its not all seamless, or easy.
In the showroom there is a higher level of friction...
What do you think?
Lets put some perspective on the DMS.
> Perhaps you remember when the financial statement was done by hand in the dealer accounting department, which usually comprised of several individuals performing a ton of manual entries.
> A couple of generations ago, GM initiated the task of showing dealers how to manage the "numbers" of their dealership. Back then a GM franchise was a license to print money, managing the money and profits was a huge challenge.
> Dealers were owned by an individual, who owned 1 dealership. It was frowned up by manufacturers to own more than 1 dealer, and especially to own another franchise from a different manufacturer.
> As you can imagine the advent of a "machine" that could manage the parts department, close work orders, manage vehicle inventories, and generate a financial statement was an appreciable productivity benefit to all dealers. Obvious the providers of these machines had an interesting business model to make money.
> Needless to mention that manufacturers with their in house financial service companies were doing an appreciable amount of business with all their dealers. Be it financing inventories, as well as retail sales. Yes...manufacturers to this day want a monthly financial statement from every dealer.
> Astute individuals by looking at a financial statement can understand what is going on at a dealer, especially with benchmark composites to facilitate comparisons.
> Since you need a ton of money to be in the auto business, the short term focus is always on "working capital"...manufacturers want to be certain that dealers have enough cash to operate their business in a successful fashion.
In 2015 at times we tend to forget that the DMS remains a "machine" that collates all the numbers in the correct columns to generate an operational financial statement at the end of the month.
Its astounding to see the use of a myriad of acronyms by certain individuals on the premise that the more acronyms you know, the more you understand the business, and presumably the DMS (its only a machine).
Way back in the day, GM was showing dealers to understand what they did to have such a number appear in such a column. Not to understand how many clerks performed operations to insert the numbers in the lines and columns.
The DMS is the machine that assembles the figures, while the human tweaking is done with journal entries. Often the folks that know all the acronyms, conveniently overlook the human side.
All the other "stuff" that integrates to the DMS is another story in and of itself for another time.