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Three ‘remarkable’ vehicles – and the setup for car of the year

Three of a kind.

Truck of the year, performance car of the year and commercial car of the year, winners of Green Car Journal’s 2018 awards, were announced at the San Antonio (TX) Auto and Truck Show.

But manufacturers and dealers of a dozen other vehicles still have something to crow about.

Chosen from among five finalists in each category are:

Commercial Vehicle of the Year

The arresting Responder now available as hybrid.

The arresting Responder now available as hybrid.

  • Ford Police Responder Hybrid, the first pursuit-rated hybrid police car with performance attributes “important if you’re chasing the bad guys,” was selected the top light commercial vehicle in a Ford-dominated category, ahead of the company’s F-250 Super Duty and Transit Connect, as well as Mercedes-Benz Metris and Ram ProMaster City.

Truck of the Year

Earlier model of the truck of the year.

Earlier model of the truck of the year.

  • Chevrolet Colorado, a midsize pickup that offers “nearly the same capacity, functionality and features as this automaker’s full-size pickup,” landed this prize by beating the Ford F-150, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma, trucks “which have not lost their sense of purpose” while competing in one of the industry’s hottest sales categories.

Performance Car of the Year

The MX-5 Miata boldly goes …

The MX-5 Miata boldly goes …

  • Mazda MX-5 Miata, the extensively redesigned, fourth-generation, two-seat sports car introduced in 1990 – called “affordable, efficient and remarkable” – was named Green Car Journal’s first-ever performance car winner in a field that also comprised the Acura NSX, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Honda Civic Type R.

Green Car of the Year

The San Antonio announcements tee up Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year award at AutoMobility LA on Nov. 30 in Los Angeles, just prior to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The magazine and website calls the five finalists – the Honda Accord and Clarity, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan LEAF and Toyota Camry – “models offering consumers varying ways to drive ‘green’ that fit their unique needs and sensibilities, and are readily available to the mass market.”

During its vetting process, the Green Car Journal jury and editors looked at all vehicles, fuels and technologies before narrowing the field of potential candidates to a final five “for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance.” Criteria include efficiency, performance characteristics, “newness,” affordability, availability to the mass market and overall environmental achievement.

So you think used electrics, hybrids sell fast? It’s not your imagination

Here today, gone tomorrow.

If you sell used electric and hybrid vehicles that might apply to your inventory.

Six of the 10 vehicles that spend the least amount of time on your lot are electrics and hybrids, according to a study by the shopping website iSeeCars.com.

“These [electric and hybrid] cars are in great demand now,” said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com’s CEO. Although you might imagine that this sort of demand would mean higher prices for used hybrid and electric vehicles, the website found that isn’t true.

Fiat 500e is the fastest-selling used car, study shows.

Fiat 500e is the fastest-selling used car, study shows.

While the average used vehicle takes almost five weeks (33.4 days) to sell, based on the website’s analysis of more than two million one- to three-year-old cars sold in the first eight months of the year, the average Fiat 500e is gone in about three weeks (22.2 days) and is the fastest-selling used vehicle.

The BMW i3 plug-in hybrid, second-fastest selling, takes only slightly longer (23.2 days), followed by No. 4 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid (24.7 days), No. 6 Nissan LEAF electric (25 days), and No. 9 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid and No. 10 Tesla Model S electric (both 26.1 days).

“Consumers’ worries about alternative-fuel vehicles’ range, battery life, safety and performance seem to be balanced by falling prices, leading to quick sales of these cars,” reported the website. Four of the six alternative-fuel vehicles – 500e, i3, LEAF and Energi – have experienced double-digit price drops, while the Prius dropped just 1.1 percent and the Model S price actually increased 3.5 percent.

Other quick sellers, all gasoline powered, are No. 3 Lexus IS 200t (24.5 days), No. 5 Hyundai Veloster Turbo (24.9), No. 7 Scion FR-S (25.1) and No. 8 Mercedes-Benz GLC (25.7).

But fast-selling doesn’t necessarily mean most popular.

None of the vehicles on iSeeCar’s fastest-selling list are near the top of the most-popular list, although the Top 10 most popular vehicles still sell faster than the average used vehicle.

The lineup of the 10 most-popular used vehicles is dominated by Honda, Toyota and Nissan with three models each, according to the website’s study. It comprises the Honda Civic (26.8 days); Nissan Sentra (29.5); Toyota Corolla (29.7); Honda CR-V (29.8) and Accord (30.2); Hyundai Elantra (30.2); Toyota Camry and RAV4 (both 30.9), and Nissan Altima (31.3) and Rogue (32.1).

And the popular vehicles that require longer than average to sell?

Dominated by Chevrolet and Ford, the list comprises Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (33.7 days), Ford Explorer (34.4), Jeep Grand Cherokee (34.5), Chevrolet Equinox (35.1), Ford F-150 and Escape (both 35.5), GMC Sierra 1500 (35.7), Ford Fusion (35.9), Chevrolet Malibu (36) and Ram 1500 pickup (37).

“In contrast to the fastest-selling cars, the nation’s most popular cars all sell about as fast as the overall average … [although] interestingly, despite their popularity as segments, SUVs and trucks are largely slower to sell than average,” the website reported.

That, said Ly, illustrates “the effect of price on moving cars off of dealers’ lots.”

First the holidays, and then what? Santander Consumer has the answer

But it’s only November.

The holidays haven’t even come and gone, and December has been a top-three sales month the last two years and six years in the past decade.

And yet it’s a good time to at least start thinking about what comes afterward – tax season 2018.

Despite the anxiety most people feel about filing returns, many start shopping for (and some buying) new vehicles as early as December in anticipation of refunds, making tax season a good time to sell cars.

“Sure, it’s early to be thinking about tax time, with the holidays ahead,” said Nancy Bloom, a Santander Consumer USA (SC) regional sales manager. “But it’s not too early. Tax season will be here before we know it, and the dealers that plan ahead of time will have an edge.”

110917 IL First the holidays, and then what Santander Consumer has the answerThere is no other time many shoppers have an extra $3,000 or so to put down on a new or used vehicle. The numbers appear to bear that out, though it’s a narrower window than some might imagine.

Although the surrounding months of January, February and April typically are not among the best, March has been one of the top three sales months of the year eight times in the past decade, including 2016 and 2017. That means you have an opportunity to get ahead of the year’s sales curve.

Besides getting your sales team prepped and aligning your advertising, marketing and inventory, it’s important to have a relationship with a lender that can help seize that opportunity.

In addition to being a full-spectrum lender, Santander Consumer USA provides two programs your dealership should consider to build tax season traffic, whether that’s strengthening sales in January and February or building up for a strong finish in March and April.

PREAPPROVED DIRECT MAIL

Your dealership can reach up to 12,000 prospects, whose buying interest is hitting a seasonal peak, by planning ahead for a tax-season mailer in which 20 percent of leads buy a car within 90 days. The Deadline to sign up for the monthly mailer typically is early the month before – December for January, for example, or January for February, February for March, etc. You can contact your area sales manager for more details or call program headquarters at 844.596.5575.

ROADLOANS LEAD EXCHANGE

This updated program puts the power of incremental sales in your hands by enabling your dealership to bid online for approved customer leads in a specific geographic area – and it requires no subscription. Active SC dealers can contact their area sales manager for details on how to sign up online.

“We’re really excited to give dealer’s more control in when and how they receive leads,” said Meredith Grossfeld, RoadLoans product marketing manager, “to decide how many leads they want and when they want them.”

And then there are tools like the Dealer Extranet and powerful Rehash Tool to help maximize results whether it’s holiday season, tax season or any other season.

Sure, it’s only November, but it’ll be tax season before you know it.

Personal touch important, even though car shoppers want digital options

Are you giving your customers the experience they want?

Probably not if a healthy portion of digital is missing from the retailing mix, according to Cox Automotive.

“Most consumers want the ability to do a number of automotive shopping/buying activities online, viewing digital retailing as convenient and saving them time,” said Cox’s 2017 Digital Retailing Study.

110717 IL Personal touch important, even though car shoppers want digital optionsAnd that, Cox said, means:

  • Providing a shopper the ability to take a 360-degree tour of a vehicle, reserve a vehicle for a test drive and negotiate vehicle price and financing online.
  • Accounting for consumer preference for a digital negotiation/financing process over the current in-person process, given the option, which would make shoppers more likely to return to a dealer, and more likely to shop for a vehicle farther from home.
  • Ensuring a “personal connection” with shoppers to help facilitate the digital process and overcome digital barriers, including concerns over sharing personal information online and uncertainty over how activities such as negotiating and test drives will work.

The desire of about 98 percent of consumers to do at least some part of car shopping/buying online, suggests dealers “should incorporate at least some aspect of digital retailing into their offerings.”

In fact, the Cox study found that 86 percent of vehicle shoppers – by far the largest percentage – want to be able to take 360-degree vehicle tours online. Other online preferences were: reserving a vehicle for a test drive (59 percent), negotiating online (57 percent), using a chat box to talk with a salesperson (55 percent), and learning about F&I products and applying for financing (52 percent each). Only two percent of shoppers “would not want to do anything digitally,” Cox reported.

Perceived shopping/negotiating/buying advantages and disadvantages provide insights that dealers may be able to use to their advantage in offering a digital experience.

Shoppers believe online options save time, are more convenient, allow for better research and produce less stress, according to the Cox study. Disadvantages include security concerns, misunderstandings, lack of physical inspection/test drive and the fact that it’s “just not that personal.”

As you might suspect in a business that long has relied on relationship-building and face-to-face transactions, the study concluded that “it is important that digital retailing solutions offered provide opportunities for personal connections between consumers and dealers, given that over two in five consumers say personal connections are important.”

In other words, giving vehicle shoppers what they want requires a lot more digital opportunities – without losing the personal touch.

Best practices that make the most of your opportunities to build sales

Selling cars is not a one-size-fits all proposition.

Which means best practices can take a lot of different sizes and shapes – from broad strategy, to operations to sweating the details – and the paperwork – of every deal.

Of course, we think working with your Santander Consumer USA (SC) area sales manager to finance more deals should be a part of every dealer’s repertoire. But we also think it’s better if you get some of the details from other dealers instead of simply hearing it from us.

IL-BLOG_70918-1 (092617 IL Putting the power of the Extranet to work for your dealership)_Logo_300x300 (1)Because every dealer knows there’s a lot more to best practices than having a favorite lender.

We try to share that with you, too, whether it’s through your area sales manager (ASM), through your Extranet connection or the Inside Lane blog.

That starts with The Road to Success infographic that covers a broad strategy for “navigating the twists and turns en route to making (and keeping) customers happy” based on general business best practices. Those range from getting to know your customers’ expectations to showing appreciation and asking for feedback to exceeding expectations in implementing necessary changes to your processes.

Once you have your strategy in place, it’s time to get down to the business of selling and financing cars.

And, again, that’s where hearing from other dealers can be especially helpful, as in What some top dealerships say about best business practices.

For example, one sales manager in Pennsylvania said, “We tend to work our deals backwards, which allows us to put the customer in the best possible situation.”

Backward, forward, whatever gets the deal done right for your customer and business, right?

But there are a lot of details to manage in getting a deal done right – credit application information, documentation, complete contracts, proof of income, etc. – areas where many stores run into trouble. This is where Six reminders to make this your best sales season yet! comes into play. Another infographic, it covers best practices that “result in faster funding.”

And then there also is:

How SC’s ‘full-spectrum’ lending program can benefit your dealership

How your ASM can help you make more deals with Santander

Putting the power of the Extranet to work for your dealership

When you want to boost results … and When you want to drive business …

It’s a lot to digest. But isn’t your business worth it?

How we help your dealership bring the big picture into focus

091316-il-yes-we-can-help-your-dealership-bring-the-big-picture-into-focus

Look at the big picture.

You want to work with a lender that has the programs, platforms and systems in place to meet your customers’ financing needs and the people with whom you can build a long-term working relationship.

The bottom line – our bottom line – is providing your dealership the wherewithal to make more deals.

Here’s what a finance director of one dealership said about working with Santander Consumer USA (SC): “Santander has been a great financing partner of our dealership for quite some time now. We would not be able to sell as many cars as we do without their unique brand of auto finance. While other lenders give you turndowns, Santander always gives you a way to go.”

And here are some reasons you should consider working with Santander Consumer USA:

The big picture

  • Finance programs that cover the full spectrum of credit
  • Strong operating platforms in originations, funding and servicing
  • Executive management with decades of direct dealership experience
  • Incomparable financial backing with billions in assets

Multi-tiered underwriting

  • Consistent approach to deal structuring
  • Every application is processed by our proprietary, risk-based scoring and pricing model
  • Simplified “one stop” approach offering multi-tier programs

Dealer-friendly underwriting

  • Automatic approvals possible with 24/7 decisioning via the Extranet
  • 48- to 72-hour purchasing for clean deal packages
  • Communication with a dedicated buyer and complete deal structuring

Sales & marketing support

  • Lead-generation programs such as direct mail and RoadLoans
  • Dedicated field sales representatives and hands-on problem resolution
  • Expert program education for dealership personnel (F&I, sales and accounting)

Funding support

  • Online tools such as the Dealer Extranet to rehash/review status of deals
  • Electronic funds transfer

SC has relationships with most of the franchised dealers in the United States and two decades of experience in auto lending across the full credit spectrum.

That means our area, regional and inside sales teams, along with experienced buyers, are ready to answer your questions about working with SC and to help you navigate the process in any way they can.

Of course, you need to be part of our franchise dealer network, which you can accomplish easily by requesting a visit from a representative who will contact you promptly. As soon as we have confirmed that your application has been accepted, you can start submitting contracts to us.

It’s when the big picture really comes into focus.

Here are 20 vehicles that will help your customers go ‘green’ in 2018

The 2018 Honda Clarity – one of five finalists for Green Car of the Year.

The 2018 Honda Clarity – one of five finalists for Green Car of the Year.

Five exciting, “fun to drive,” yet sensible cars.

All are finalists for the Green Car Journal 2018 Green Car of the Year Award.

The magazine and website calls the five vehicles – the Honda Accord and Clarity, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan LEAF and Toyota Camry – “models offering consumers varying ways to drive ‘green’ that fit their unique needs and sensibilities, and are readily available to the mass market.”

“This year’s Green Car of the Year finalists reflect the continuing evolution of the automobile and the drive toward ever-greater environmental compatibility,” said Ron Cogan of Green Car Journal.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq – another finalist for Green Car of the Year.

The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq – another finalist for Green Car of the Year.

 

The 2018 Nissan LEAF – also a finalist for Green Car of the Year.

The 2018 Nissan LEAF – also a finalist for Green Car of the Year.

 

Reviews of the five finalists ranged from the new Camry’s “sportier and more dynamic” character to the Clarity’s “appealing design” and luxurious appointments, from the LEAF’s sportiness to the Ioniq’s “unique styling cues and character” and Accord’s “style, efficiency, and performance.”

But it’s not the only Green Car Journal award up for grabs. Vehicle awards also will be given to one of five finalists in each of the following categories:

Truck of the Year

  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Ford F-150
  • GMC Canyon
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Toyota Tacoma

Performance Car of the Year

  • Acura NSX
  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Ford Mustang
  • Honda Civic Type R
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata

Commercial Car of the Year

  • Ford F-250 Super Duty
  • Ford Transit Connect
  • Ford Police Responder Hybrid
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris
  • Ram ProMaster City

“The diversity of this year’s award finalists shows just how aggressively environmental achievement is emerging in all vehicle classes,” said Cogan. “Their common thread is increased efficiency, lower carbon emissions, and greater environmental performance.”

During its vetting process, the Green Car Journal jury and editors look at all vehicles, fuels and technologies before narrowing the field of potential candidates to a final five “for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance.” Criteria include efficiency, performance characteristics, “newness,” affordability, availability to the mass market, and overall environmental achievement.

“As we move toward the goal of efficiency in the industry, it is important to bring recognition to these [vehicles] so that more consumers are aware of all that they can do and how they can better impact the environment,” said a spokeswoman for the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show, where winners of the performance car, pickup truck and commercial vehicle categories will be announced Nov. 9.

The Green Car of the Year Award will be announced at AutoMobility LA on Nov. 30 in Los Angeles, just prior to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The 2018 Honda Accord – a finalist for Green Car of the Year.

The 2018 Honda Accord – a finalist for Green Car of the Year.

 

The 2018 Toyota Camry – another finalist for Green Car of the Year.

The 2018 Toyota Camry – another finalist for Green Car of the Year.

Here’s how this year’s new-vehicle sales still could surpass record 2016

Down to the wire?

That’s how close the race could be for the annual vehicle sales record.

While 2017 has not been as strong as 2016, so far, falling short on sales in eight of nine months, the strongest September in 30 years at least opens a conversation about how the year could finish.

Especially after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of vehicles in Texas and Florida that will need to be replaced by owners.

101717 IL Here’s how this year’s new-vehicle sales still could surpass record 2016

Of course, not all of those purchases will be new cars and trucks as franchise dealerships generally sell nearly as many used vehicles.

But if sales in October through December are up by about the same percentage as September, the 2016 sales record will fall by a few thousand vehicles – and that would surprise most industry analysts. It also would mean December probably will need to be the strongest of any month on record, based on 40 years of data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

December has been one of the strongest sales months of the year over the past decade.

However, if sales in the last three months just equal the last quarter of 2016, the record of 17.46 million will be secure for another year, at least, with sales falling about a quarter-million short. That also would leave sales for this year below the total of 17.4 million in 2015.

If 2017 sales don’t keep pace with 2016 through the final three months of the year …

“Industry analysts predicted that positive sales would continue through the end of the year fueled by customers whose cars were destroyed by [the hurricanes]. But sales aren’t expected to be strong enough to match last year’s record of more than 17.5 million,” the Associated Press reported.

“While this strong level of demand isn’t expected to be sustained throughout the fourth quarter … short-term supports are not likely to drop off in a meaningful way,” Christopher Hopson of forecasting firm IHS Markit told the AP, referring to hurricane replacement demand, high incentives, rising fleet sales and strong sales of outgoing models, “setting the stage for strong Q4 results.”

In fact, Hopson said in a press release that the surge in light vehicle sales due to the hurricanes “will boost overall U.S. sales levels through the first quarter of 2018.”

We’ll know soon whether these factors are enough to push 2017 sales past last year.

How SC’s ‘full-spectrum’ lending program can benefit your dealership

Some dealerships still think of Santander Consumer USA (SC) primarily as a subprime or nonprime lender.

And that used to be true.

But talk to any SC area, regional or inside sales manager now and you’ll almost certainly hear the phrase “full-spectrum lender” to describe the Dallas-based company.

IL-BLOG_70918-1 (092617 IL Putting the power of the Extranet to work for your dealership)_Logo_300x300 (1)Because they can back that up with real-world success stories of dealerships that have taken advantage.

“We do fund deep subprime but that’s not a majority of our business today,” according to Robert Plemel, an Ohio area sales manager (ASM). “Discussions [with dealerships] help change the narrative that we are a subprime lender to the full-spectrum lender we are today.”

Santander, which operates nationwide through a network of nearly 13,000 “producing” franchise dealerships, received more than five million indirect loan applications and originated almost 400,000 loans in 2016 with an average FICO score of 573.

Obviously, that means many of those loans involved FICO scores into the 600s. In fact, about half of SC’s current applications involve credit scores of 550 or better.

So what’s in it for your dealership? Here is a power list from the SC sales team:

  1. Competitive pricing across the credit spectrum.
  2. Funding in as little as one day with higher scores.
  3. Increased participation through SC’s enhanced program.
  4. Higher LTV/PTI allowances with higher FICOs.
  5. Fewer stips on higher FICO scores.
  6. More backend with higher FICOs.
  7. Fees decrease as FICO increases in most cases.
  8. A better balance of business in your portfolio.
  9. Access 24/7 to our Dealer Extranet and powerful Rehash Tool.
  10. Access to our direct mailer program.

Finally, it means a stronger relationship with your SC sales manager that can help build your business by working with a motivated lender that is always seeking to improve dealer programs and results.

“From my experience, most higher-performing dealerships already are taking advantage of sending and booking higher FICO deals with Santander,” said ASM Bill Smith, whose territory covers northeastern Pennsylvania. “These higher-performing stores view us as a true partnership versus sending applications only when no other lender has approved the deal.”

“Santander has been a major driving force behind our success,” said Islam Hindash, managing partner of Mission Mitsubishi, San Antonio, TX, the brand’s top U.S. dealership. “We click over every deal with no exceptions, whether the customer is a 400 FICO or a 740 FICO, and see what Santander has to offer. And best of all the decision is there in less than a minute!”

Here are several other great ideas for dealerships shared by SC sales managers.

ASM Howard Greenblatt, who covers southern New Jersey, suggests that dealerships send all applications with a FICO/credit score up to 700. But Greenblatt is looking for applications with even higher scores (750-plus) on older used cars (2008-2011) “where we are most competitive with prime paper and have a niche where not many dealers know they can take advantage.”

“The SC prime program also can help dealerships capture the first-time-buyer market,” said ASM Elsa Castro in Los Angeles, who noted competitive rates for FICOs ranging from 575 to 650.

“LTVs on prime loans can help dealerships assist customers with negative equity situations,” she added.

Obviously, not every solution works for all dealerships, so if you have any questions or just want more information about submitting applications with higher FICO scores, talk to your area, regional or inside sales manager.

Or contact our sales department from the Santander Consumer USA website.

How to create an effective staffing strategy for your dealership

Good people are hard to find – and keep.

But two of three dealerships don’t give themselves much of a chance to do either.

That’s how many don’t have a staffing strategy, despite the possible payoff in hiring and retaining quality salespeople and other team members, according to a study* from Cox Automotive.

But that’s also what your dealership must implement to make the most of “one of the biggest sources of operational opportunity” in your business.

101017 IL How to create an effective staffing strategy for your dealership

“With a solid staffing strategy, you can hire better, accelerate productivity, foster better relationships and culture, and improve employee satisfaction, resulting in improved retention and performance,” said Cox Automotive’s “Dealership Staffing Study | Meeting the Challenges of a Changing Workforce.”

In the study, Cox identifies four critical components for a “holistic staffing strategy” – recruiting, training, communicating and recognition:

RECRUITING

  • Market all opportunities at the dealership via all available recruiting channels to increase interest and demonstrate the variety of roles and careers available.
  • Treat dealership jobs as careers by providing a long-term path to advancement.
  • Be clear when experience or specific skills are required for a position.
  • Focus on strong social skills and compatibility with dealership values.
  • Communicate the benefits of pay plans and scheduling.
  • Actively and continuously recruit talent.
  • Include a variety of levels and personalities at your dealership in the recruiting process.

TRAINING

  • Invest in training employees, particularly during their first year, through mentoring programs, senior staff sharing best practices, online training and job shadowing.
  • Set clear goals for 30, 60 and 90 days and provide feedback on progress.
  • Offer cross-training that will enable employees to pursue positions elsewhere in the dealership.
  • Provide ongoing training to keep employees engaged.

COMMUNICATING

  • Managers should regularly encourage career development with all of their direct reports by regularly reviewing, discussing and evaluating employee goals, responsibilities and progress.
  • Provide a positive work environment by encouraging honest, open and direct communication and fostering respect between all employees.
  • Reinforce dealership values by clearly communicating the goals of the organization, setting an example incorporating those values, and recognizing employees who embody them.

RECOGNITION

  • Use awards programs and incentives.
  • Praise accomplishments on an ongoing basis.
  • Show appreciation for hours/schedules employees work.
  • Instill pride in the dealership and acknowledge the value employees bring to customers, the business and the community.

Ultimately, of course, the goal is to sell more cars, which, in this case, includes having a strategy for recruiting and retaining quality personnel to improve your chances of success.

Don’t be one of those dealerships that fails to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

* This research was conducted for Cox by KS&R with consultation from Hireology and included 50 dealer owners, principals and GMs on their current staffing practices and challenges; 343 dealership employees on their experiences, and 834 people on their opinions about working at a dealership.