Desert Ships

Has anyone seen this picture or one like it?

Some people see a boat in the desert, and think of how eerie it looks, or how out-of-place it is. When I see it, I think to myself: I’ve seen that car dealer before.

The whole point to this is to get you to think about what you have and what your market is.

Inventory Management is a concept that I see very little of at times. Dealers need to start spending a little more time looking at what they have, and ask themselves one question of each and every unit on the lot: “Can I sell this unit at a profit?”

Look first at how long you have had it. This is called Aging. The industry suggests that, except for a few very limited circumstances, a 45 day old unit is a management failure.

Is this unit still here because you have it priced too high? Or is it there because your sales staff *can’t* sell it? In the first case, look at your competition, and similar cars in the area. In the second case, you either have a training issue, or, you have what’s pictured above.

One more possibility to the “can’t sell it” case: They cant sell it because it is NOT saleable. What does that mean?  Simply this: potential buyers walked away from it because of some real or perceived defect.  Stuff as simple as lingering odors, mismatched wheel covers, busted taillights, or even a drive-ability issue. Have one of your staff go drive the thing, and see what puts them off about it. Then, either get rid of the car or fix it.

I was at a used car lot a few months ago looking at a $10,000 used van. When I looked at the back, I saw a busted tail light lens cover. I asked the dealer if he had noticed it. He said yes, and had even called the local scrap yard to inquire about getting a replacement. Told me it would only cost $25, and he would give me the number of the guy he called.  I was speechless for a moment. I finally asked him why he did not spend $25 to make a $10,000 unit saleable? He looked me right in the face, and said the tail light was NOT his problem.

I did not buy the van. Because: As I looked at the ignored inexpensive cosmetic (and safety)  issue with this unit, I wondered what else has been ignored or noticed and declared insignificant, and it gave me pause. If something as simple as a $25 tail light cover was “not his problem,”  then what else was also deemed to beneath his level of concern for me as a consumer? And that, dear readers, is a chance I decided not to take. You’ve heard before the old refrain,

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This dealer could have spent a mere $25 on a tail light cover, and I might have drove home in that van. How many other customers has he lost due to his miserly outlook on reconditioning? I wondered if losing the gross on a $10,000 van was his problem? Maybe not.

I will admit, when I sold cars, it always confused me the tiny things that made people walk away from a deal. Once, a dealership I was at lost a sale of a used Lincoln Town Car over rusty ashtrays. The sales manager dug in and refused to order new ($50 for all) ashtrays to make someone happy. So the customer dug in and refused to hand that dealership $25,000. Salesman lost out on a $600 commission. Point is, to the customer otherwise willing to buy it, that car was not in a saleable condition.

I’ve seen dealers lose sales because of dirty cars. I’ve talked to one dealer closing up his lot and going bankrupt, and as I looked over his inventory, I noted (and told him) that the inventory he had was not suited to the market area he was trying to sell cars in.

Don’t let a handful of nails be the reason you turn off the lights and close up shop.

EVERY car. Go today and put your hand on EVERY car, and ask: Is this priced right? Can I sell it to the consumers in this area? If those two answers are yes, then: Is something wrong with it or do I need to retrain the sales staff? 


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