WHERE’S THE BRIEF

Your 30-second guide to the latest news, updates

 

The Nissan Kicks crossover saw its best month of sales in Dec. 2018 since launch at 5,704 units.

Game plan to score big this tax season

Fourth-quarter trip to the red zone

What you need to know about fraud risk

U.S. vehicle sales cruise to ‘very good year’

Hiring for keeps survival guide for 2019

January is not the time for a break

The car shopper’s purchase path

Decline in car ownership?

 

You need the right game plan to score big this tax season

Tax season.

It’s like your bowl game after a successful 2018.

Most people equate taxes with the April filing deadline, but auto dealers like you know better.

A high proportion of tax refunds will have gotten to taxpayers by February or March, and those early filers tend to receive the largest checks.

That typically makes March one of the top three sales months of the year.

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In fact, March is the top month of 2018, pending results for December, with nearly 1.7 million units sold. Almost 9 percent of 2017 sales occurred in March, the month before tax season ended!

That also means January is one of the most important months of the year, because that’s when dealerships need to game plan for the tax rush coming our way in February and March. It may be especially important this year, with industry analysts expecting sales to slip.

There’s a lot to be said for featuring the playbook that helped you to a winning 2018 season:

A high-powered, hurry-up offense to move the ball down the field (Santander Consumer program)

Running the option that provides a competitive advantage (Dealer Extranet and Rehash Tool)

Making the most of fourth-quarter trips to the red zone (Dealer Relationship Manager)

A wrinkle in your offense to throw competitors off balance (Direct Mail)

The X’s and O’s of the hurry-up offer a glimpse into what Santander Consumer USA brings to the game:

  • More financing options increasing your chances of scoring.
  • A pricing strategy calibrated to a dealer-favorable call.
  • Lower price and discount fee and a fresh approach to credit underwriting.
  • Flexibility on financing terms and increase dealer participation.
  • Most application responses received within seconds of submission reducing wait times.

“Long gone are the days when we looked at Santander only for the subprime customers,” said Carlos Pedre of AutoNation Chevrolet Doral in Florida. “Definitely a much larger credit spectrum lender now.”

“Santander Consumer USA has been a consistent lender – we count on them month in and month out,” said a finance manager at Greenwood Hubbard Chevrolet in Hubbard, OH. “Santander gives us an opportunity with almost any customer that walks through the door.”

That means you can count on SC to help you achieve results that show up on the tax-season scoreboard.

Contact SC online

When the season comes down to a fourth-quarter trip to the red zone

The game comes down to this.

Waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and you’re in the red zone.

All you want to do is push the ball across the goal line for another successful year, and that means you need your best team on the field.

Shouldn’t that include your Santander Consumer USA (SC) Dealer Relationship Manager?

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“The DRM provides one of the most important connections between dealerships and Santander,” said a member of SC’s Dealer Relationship Team. “Dealers who take advantage of the knowledge and opportunities provided by our DRMs see the difference in their results.”

“My goal is to make doing business with Santander easy, efficient and profitable,” said another DRM.

So what can you expect from your DRM as the clock winds down?

More incremental business

Learn how SC can help you put more deals together and keep you up to date on our credit policies.

Faster deal processing

Get help creating clean packages while keeping current on SC’s funding policy and requirements.

Dealer Extranet training

Learn how to maximize profit on every deal with our rehash tool and to use other powerful features.

Marketing opportunities

Help generating new traffic to your dealership via direct mail program and RoadLoans lead exchange.

Dedicated point of contact

A resource for regulatory, policy and industry updates, and link to best-in-class fraud awareness training.

“The DRM is someone who is there to help guide dealers through any SC-related scenario,” said Howard Greenblatt, a New Jersey DRM.

“It could be walking them through how to use our Dealer Extranet to helping with a deal in funding to letting the dealer know when and how to contact another department within SC for additional help or guidance. And DRMs are always just a phone call, text or email away.”

“Santander Consumer USA has been a consistent lender, we count on them month in and month out,” said a finance manager at Greenwood Hubbard Chevrolet in Hubbard, OH. “Our buyer and [Dealer Relationship Manager] are always ready to help put deals together.”

“Santander gives us an opportunity with almost any customer that walks through the door,” he added.

So don’t leave SC on the sideline during your most important drive. Because you’re not simply playing for this season, tax season is next on the schedule.

Contact SC online

What you need to know about fraud risk – and why you should care

It goes without saying (almost) that an auto lender such as Santander Consumer USA (SC) would be concerned about the threat from fraud.

Most auto dealers also would agree that it poses a risk to their businesses.

But few would suggest that fraud is as easy to identify and deal with as it is to acknowledge.

So why should you care if your dealership hasn’t had a problem? You’ve heard the old saying that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Well …

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PART 1

“The number of identity theft, fraud and elder-abuse complaints … has increased significantly, resulting in a push at all levels of government to regulate more closely auto lenders and dealers,” says an SC-produced brochure, Driving a New Model | A dealer guide to recognizing the warning signs of fraud, identifying suspicious buyers and taking action to reduce costs.

“Here in the U.S., fraud is on the rise in a big way,” wrote Frank McKenna of PointPredictive consulting firm in a separate Digital Dealer Magazine report 5 Reasons Car Dealers Should Be Concerned with Fraud. “Massive data breaches, like the Equifax breach, have given criminal fraudsters access to more information to defraud consumers and businesses. That is why we can expect more fraud perpetrated and more losses incurred than any other point in history.”

McKenna reported that “fraudulent applications could exceed $6 billion” this year, with one in every 200 applications containing information that could lead to a problem with the loan after funding.

Driving a New Model was produced to help dealers identify and take action against this threat.

“Awareness of fraud and elder-abuse red flags will allow you to take steps to reduce these risks and will result in a number of benefits,” according to the SC pamphlet.

Driving a New Model suggests those benefits could comprise:

  • Improvement in the overall customer experience
  • Reduction in consumer harm and risk to the dealer’s reputation
  • Reduction in credit stipulations on an application
  • Reduction in funding delays to dealership
  • Reduction in post-funding disputes and potential unwinds

Our upcoming series, Driving a New Model, will help dealers spot the red flags for identity fraud, application misrepresentation, straw buyers and elder abuse, and includes actionable checklists.

“Establishing a partnership with lenders is the best way to fight fraud,” wrote McKenna. “Since lenders have more tools to diagnose and detect fraud, they can help you understand the impact to you before it ever happens. Good collaboration on fraud is the key to winning the war on fraud.”

U.S. vehicle sales beat expectations, cruise to a ‘very good year’

The experts didn’t see it coming.

New-car sales were supposed to drop in 2018, according to most analysts, with early predictions around 16.6 to 16.8 million compared to 17.2 million in 2017.

But dealers remained optimistic, based on results of a Cox Automotive survey.

“Although price pressures and costs are working against them, we continue to be encouraged by the fact that dealers are optimistic about market prospects,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Cox, to Autodealer Today magazine before the year even started.

2019 Nissan Kicks

So who had a better measure of the market?

It wasn’t until mid-year – when there were growing signs that 2018 vehicle sales actually could beat those early forecasts – that the experts conceded the year might turn out better than expected.

“At a glance, it appears that forecasts may have been slightly underestimated,” reported CBT Automotive Network in June. “Surprisingly positive results from most major automakers have helped keep the retail automotive industry from sounding the alarm in the first half of 2018.”

“But it’s much too early to celebrate,” cautioned CBT. “While 2018 started strong in auto sales, there’s a very strong possibility that sales will erode in the third and fourth quarters.”

Another good month

Then came June results as the fourth month of the first two quarters with a sales increase.

Not long after, Forbes reported that “despite generally good conditions, automakers are in for a rough finish to 2018,” based on an interview with a senior economist from Cox.

But the months of August and October also beat out 2017 results, and November sales brought the year to around 16 million, ahead of 2017, based on data from the automakers themselves and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

And that set the stage for December, the strongest sales month every year since 2015.

Four-year win streak

Although December was only the third-best sales month this year – both March and May were higher – the total passed 17.2 million reported by the automakers in 2017 to 17.3 million. That makes 2018 the fourth consecutive year of more than 17 million in vehicle sales.

And, finally, the experts got it right. Well, sort of.

“There is no denying 2018 was a very good year for the U.S. auto industry,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist, in Cox’s December forecast. “Many economic factors pointed to a slowdown in the second half of the year, but sales remained in high gear.”

Market uncertainty?

But in comments to Seeking Alpha, an Edmunds manager found a negative spin for the results.

“Automakers continue to rely heavily on upping fleet sales to mask eroding retail demand, and that’s not a sustainable place to be,” the Edmunds manager said. “A record number of lessees returning to the market should help give dealers a boost in the New Year, but rising interest rates and vehicle costs are going to continue to give car shoppers pause and create uncertainty in the market.”

Forecasts for 2019 now range from 16.5 million to about 17 million, according to a Bloomberg report, Don’t Be Fooled: The U.S. Auto Sales Party Is Coming to an End.

But that’s not very different from 2018, which turned out to be a pretty good year, after all.

Happy New Year!

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Hiring for keeps: A four-part survival guide for 2019 and beyond

It’s never a bad time to get better at hiring great people for your business.

Sales associates, service technicians, back-office staff, other team members, it doesn’t matter. Getting better at hiring great people for your business probably will reduce your costs and boost your results.

“It’s no secret that employee turnover rate for certain positions in the auto industry is high,” David Druzynski, chief people officer at Auto/Mate Dealership Systems, wrote in Dealer Solutions Magazine. “Auto dealers keep making the same hiring mistakes over and over.”

But avoiding those all-too-frequent mistakes is exactly what our series, “Hiring for Keeps,” is about. And not missing out on “one of the biggest sources of operational opportunity” in your business.

Here is a quick guide to the four-part series:

 

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Calculating the cost to your dealership of high employee turnover

Employee turnover is a burden, costing the average dealership more than $1.5 million a year in replacement costs alone. That doesn’t count the dollars associated with leads (or customers) burned by inexperienced employees. And the biggest hit comes with your sales team.

 

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Don’t rush to judgment when you’re hiring for keeps

Nine of your dealership’s sales consultants quit in the last year. Not only does that mean your dealership will spend more money than you would like on hiring, onboarding and training, but it creates continual pressure to find consultants so your team isn’t left shorthanded, costing you sales opportunities. And your hiring process may be exactly where the trouble starts.

 

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Swim, don’t sink: Best practices for onboarding new hires at your dealership

Does your dealership have the right stuff to onboard new hires successfully? It’s not as simple as just assigning your new hire a desk and starting with administrative paperwork. The idea is to get that new hire up and running – and producing – for your business. And that may mean doing things differently than many dealerships are accustomed to operating.

 

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Our new hire is on board, now what? Four keys to an engaged employee

There’s more to onboarding a new hire at your dealership than what happens between the hire date and start date. The onboarding process should engage employees early on and keep them interested in staying for the long haul and driving your dealership’s growth.

Two of three dealerships don’t give themselves much of a chance to find – and keep – great people, according to a study from Cox Automotive.

Hiring for keeps means getting better at both and reaping the benefits for your business.

Happy holidays!

Happy holidays

January is not the time for your dealership to take a break

The holidays have arrived.

The month, quarter and year are nearly over. Then you can take a break, right?

Well, not unless you want your competitors to gain an edge going into tax season. Tax season, you reply, that’s still a couple months away.

But, no, tax season starts right … about … now.

 

121818 IL Now is not the time for your dealership to take a break

 

Despite the anxiety most people feel about tax season, it’s also a good time to sell cars. There is no other time of the year many shoppers have an extra $3,000 or so to put down on a new or used vehicle.

The reality is that many consumers will be shopping in anticipation of refunds.

That typically makes March one of the top three sales months. In fact, March is the top month of 2018, pending results for December, with nearly 1.7 million units sold. Almost 9 percent of 2017 sales occurred in March, the month before tax season ends!

That also means January and February are two of the most important months of the year, because that’s when dealerships will need to prepare for the tax rush coming our way.

To make the most of tax season, as we suggested in our series, The Road Ahead, you are going to need an auto lender such as Santander Consumer USA that is:

  • Committed to helping your dealership succeed this tax season and beyond.
  • Confident that our updated program will enable you to make more money.
  • Compelled to do what is best for our dealer-partners’ businesses.
  • Commended by dealerships who already work with us – some of them for many years.

Being commended by dealerships that work with us is the best measure of our success.

Jim Lopez, general manager of Del Toyota in Thorndale, PA, which sells about 3,100 vehicles a year, gave four reasons the dealership has been working with SC for more than 10 years:

  • Fast response time on applications. Knowing we have a quick approval helps us make deals with our customers faster, and we don’t have to keep them waiting.
  • The Dealer Extranet – We are big fans of the rehash tool. It gives us flexibility to rehash multiple vehicles in minutes without having to pick up the phone.
  • Funding experience. We have had great experiences with the funding department. It is fast and painless, which keeps us wanting to work with Santander.
  • Our relationship with our Santander rep adds the perfect personal touch. In a time where instantaneous accessibility is vital, she is always a phone call away.

And then there’s Darryl Morgan, general sales manager at The Sharpest Rides, a dealership in Englewood, CO, which sells 6,000 units annually as one of the largest independents in the country.

“I love Santander for a couple simple reasons,” said Morgan. “One, they are one of my only lenders that understands what we need from them – approvals. They make this happen more than others on the largest set of customers … Secondly, they’re a value bank, meaning they bring value to the relationship. My [Dealer Relationship Manager] is a partner at our dealership.”

Chances are you won’t have to go looking for your DRM – he or she probably will find you. But if you don’t hear from us soon, you can contact SC online for quick attention.

The coming months may be taxing – and what a great way to start 2019.

Some surprising sights along car shopper’s purchase path, Nielsen finds

Process of elimination.

Start with all the possibilities, whittle that to a handful, then, maybe a couple, and, finally, choose one. Of course, that’s how consumers go about their car-buying journey.

Or is it?

121118 IL Some surprising sights along car shopper’s purchase path, Nielsen finds

The Nielsen Company’s Auto Marketing Report 2018 suggests that vehicle shoppers, in fact, don’t use a process of elimination, leaving open the door for dealerships to affect shoppers’ choices even if they are well along the path to purchase.

“Marketers have used [the model] for decades to illustrate how people shop,” the report says, pointing out that there are two misconceptions with this idea.

“The first misconception is that people don’t have any … bias favoring one brand over another at the start of the car-buying process. The second misconception is that car shopping is a process [in which] people eliminate brands one by one until a winner finally emerges.”

Here’s what the Nielsen research shows:

  1. Car buyers do, in fact, have a bias to [certain] brands throughout the path to purchase, being “much more likely to purchase a car from a carmaker they had on their mind already.”
  2. The number of brands considered actually increases the closer a person gets to a final decision.

“Car shoppers start out on the path to purchase by considering two to three brands on average,” according to the report. “They’re aware of many more, of course, but by the time they’re ready to buy, they typically have five brands under consideration – nearly twice as many as they started with.”

“The fact that shoppers are considering more brands as time goes by is encouraging for auto marketers,” says Nielsen. “It suggests that car shoppers are open to considering additional brands even while having a top-of-mind brand that carries a natural advantage.”

Nielsen concedes that “on the surface … [the study] findings seem paradoxical: The first points to inertia or immutability in the car selection process, while the second points to a degree of open-mindedness for new brands along the way.”

So what are the implications for vehicle marketers, including dealerships.

“The key is to develop campaigns that can deliver on … building long-term brand equity and capturing people’s attention when they’re weighing their options.”

This requires “an understanding of how different media channels should be leveraged along the path to purchase,” according to Nielsen, with “mass reach media” such as radio and TV for brand building, “transitioning to more targeted and ‘personalizable’ media including mobile, digital and direct mail to increase purchase consideration and dealership foot traffic.”

The findings are based on online surveys conducted by Nielsen every quarter since 2012 to understand the behavior of car buyers in the U.S., with more than 220,000 surveys completed to date.

The complete report is available to download from Nielsen’s website.

Have dealers come to terms with possible decline in car ownership?

Eyes wide open.

Auto dealers generally have come to terms with the idea that individual car ownership will decline over the next five years as other forms of mobility gain in popularity.

Cox Automotive’s “Evolution of Mobility Study: A Dealer’s Perspective” found that 28 percent of franchise and independent automotive dealers expect a sharp decline in individual car ownership, more than the 18 percent of consumers who anticipate that same decline.

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“However, while most of the dealers surveyed recognize this eventual reality, only one in 10 dealers see mobility [alternatives] as a threat to their current business,” Cox reported

“In the next 10 years, nearly half (47 percent) of dealers see consumers owning or leasing fewer vehicles per household as a direct result of the increasing number of mobility options and the introduction of autonomous vehicles to the mass market.”

What dealers expect

Dealers expect the most growth to occur in ride-hailing (87 percent), followed by car subscriptions (82 percent), car-sharing (81 percent) and autonomous vehicles (81 percent), according to the study.

“With dealers challenged by declining new-car sales and margin compression, 45 percent say they see new shared-mobility models … as new revenue streams,” Cox reports. “Three out of four dealers see a benefit in offering these shared services at their dealerships, with 40 percent viewing mobility [alternatives] as an opportunity to appeal to a new consumer base.”

Fixed operations opportunity

Nearly six in 10 dealers surveyed also believe fixed operations will play a more important role with vehicles used for ride-hailing and car-sharing logging more miles and requiring more service, Cox said.

“Dealers are approaching the evolving mobility landscape with their eyes wide open,” said Joe George, president of Cox Automotive Mobility. While “traditional car ownership isn’t going away anytime soon,” the automotive research and information company expects dealers with innovative consumer mobility and fleet service solutions to keep their businesses relevant into the future.

Dealerships won’t disappear

“Even with the shift moving from traditional ownership to usage and a more personalized ‘one-to-many’ design of on-demand transportation, 72 percent of dealers do not view these mobility trends as the end of the dealership model,” according to the Cox report.

However 57 percent of dealers surveyed believe there will be a need for fewer dealerships in 10 years.

Conducted by Vital Findings for Cox Automotive, the Evolution of Mobility Study included an online survey of 430 automotive dealers in the United States during July 2018.