Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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.

CUV competitors at Texas Auto Show reflect category’s strength in sales

Toyota’s Highlander was just one of many CUVs at the fair.

Toyota’s Highlander was just one of many CUVs at the fair.

You just can’t miss the CUVs.

Crossover utility vehicles will occupy a lot of floor space at the Texas Auto Show the next three weeks – about what you would expect from a category that has dominated 2017 sales.

Spread out over two buildings and an outdoor truck area at the State Fair of Texas, the auto show comprises about 400 of the latest vehicle models from 16 auto manufacturers.

But CUVs are getting their fair share of attention from early car show visitors.

The CrossTrek is one of three Subaru CUVs at the show.

The CrossTrek is one of three Subaru CUVs at the show.

Many can’t get to the crossovers fast enough, according to a Hyundai product specialist at the fair. “Even some of those who start with the cars quickly find their way to our crossovers.”

Hyundai is represented at the fair by their 2018 Santa Fe and 2017 entry-level Tucson CUVs.

Hyundai’s presentation perhaps is symbolic of the change in fortunes of CUVs and cars, with its crossovers lined up along the main walkway of the exhibit hall and cars tucked in behind.

CUV sales for September beat all other categories, including pickup trucks, and approached total car sales – small, midsize, large and luxury combined – while growing faster than any other category. Industry data shows that CUVs have grown to nearly 34 percent of light-vehicle sales this year from 24.5 percent in 2010, while cars have slipped under 37 percent from nearly half in that same period.

Explorer was one of three different CUV models representing Ford.

Explorer was one of three different CUV models representing Ford.

Among the crossovers scattered throughout the Automobile and Centennial buildings in Dallas’ Fair Park are the highly popular Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox – all three of which are among the 10 top-selling vehicles in America so far this year.

Other CUVs among the 20 top-sellers so far this year that are appearing at the fair are the Ford Escape, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, Subaru Outback and Toyota Highlander. But nearly every manufacturer attending apparently wanted in on the action, including but not limited to the several identified above, plus Buick, Dodge, Fiat, GMC, Kia, Nissan and Volkswagen.

This bright red 2017.5 Rogue was front and center for Nissan.

This bright red 2017.5 Rogue was front and center for Nissan.

While Nissan was represented by Rogue and Murano 2017.5 models, there was one notable absence.

“No, I’m sorry. We didn’t bring a Juke,” said a Nissan representative, who noted that she saw one in the fair parking lot and conceded that “we probably should have.”

Still, if you’re shopping CUV competitors, the Texas Auto Show isn’t a bad place to start through Oct. 22. If you’re not in Texas, other upcoming auto shows include Sacramento, CA; Charlotte, NC; Albany, NY; Phoenix, AZ; Orlando, FL; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA, and Indianapolis, IN.

And after checking out the CUVs in Texas, there’s always the Truck Zone – but that’s a different story.

The 2018 Equinox was Chevrolet’s entry at the Texas fair.

The 2018 Equinox was Chevrolet’s entry at the Texas fair.

Meeting the challenges of dealership recruiting, retention

How could you get many car dealers to groan?

Probably by turning the conversation to recruitment, retention and development.

But, according to Cox Automotive’s 2017 “Dealership Staffing Study | Meeting the Challenges of a Changing Workforce,” it’s also “one of the biggest sources of operational opportunity.”

“More than half of dealership gross profit margin goes to payroll and the impact that your employees can have on your customers and on your culture can be significant,” the study said.

100517 IL Meeting the challenges of dealership recruiting, retention

Citing an average cost of $10,000 per new hire and an annual turnover rate as high as 67 percent for sales positions, the study said, “a dealership with 100 salespeople can lose $670,000 a year … not to mention the knowledge and customer relationships that walk out the door with that employee.”

That sort of turnover can have broad operational consequences, according to the Cox study.

Examples include:

  • Hiring relatively inexperienced sales and service advisers because they seem to be a good personality fit can result in bad hires, high turnover and associated expenses.
  • Offering only cursory training/orientation on OEM products, which can lead to lack of job satisfaction and poor employee performance.
  • Failure to offer and/or discuss career development, which can result in short-term employment and difficulty recruiting the highest-quality candidates.

Despite the possible payoff in hiring and retaining quality salespeople, two in three dealers have no staffing strategy, the study reports.

When dealerships don’t have a strategic plan for hiring, staffing and training employees, don’t track turnover, don’t actively recruit and only hire as needed, provide little formal training outside OEM product training, and avoid discussions about career growth and development unless prompted by employees or job candidates, the study said, they can expect the following results:

  • Inconsistent in-store experiences, service/parts operations running at less than capacity and managers too focused on doing HR tasks themselves.
  • Inability to address problem areas such as ineffective sales management, broken or ineffective service tech onboarding processes, etc.
  • Lost productivity when positions are open too long and additional personnel expenses costing tens of thousands of dollars due to bad hiring decisions.
  • Lost revenue due to lack of skills and inconsistent customer experiences between visits.
  • Disengaged employees with lower productivity and loss of good employees.

So what does a solid staffing strategy get you, according to the study?

“High-quality, long-term employees critical to dealer profitability, longevity and growth, and people in the right roles, properly trained and operating in ways that reflect your desired customer experience.”

We’ll share what that strategy looks like in our second installment on the Inside Lane dealer blog.

Reduce temptation, employee fraud with these 10 best practices

Most employees are trustworthy.

You know you can run your dealership without worrying about them committing fraud or theft which could cost you thousands of dollars a year.

But … it only takes one to wreak havoc on your business.

“Dealers who become victims of employee fraud tend to place unrestricted trust in those they shouldn’t,” wrote John Buelow, dealerships principal at Clifton Larson Allen consulting firm, in Reducing Risk: Top 10 Best Practices for Preventing Internal Fraud in Dealerships.092817 IL Reduce temptation, employee fraud with these 10 best practices_IMAGE_1

“In their belief in common decency, they fail to remove all temptation from their financial and operational protocols,” the consultant wrote. “This makes it just a little too easy and all too irresistible for less honest employees to rob them from right under their noses.”

RELATED: The everyday language of building a better business model; Steering a New Course: Watch out for signs of fraud on the road to a better business model

Victims shared four distinct preventive shortcomings, according to Buelow:

  • They were caught off guard.
  • Part-time or absentee owners, especially, often trusted their employees completely.
  • They either did not have internal controls or their controls were not followed consistently.
  • The perpetrator was caught by chance, not through systematic fraud controls.

“I’m not suggesting that you place suspicion on each of your dealership’s employees or categorically regard people as crooks,” Buelow wrote. “But unless you recognize that internal theft is a risk inherent in every business and take measures to keep it from happening, you leave yourself vulnerable.”

Following are Buelow’s 10 best practices to help prevent or uncover employee fraud:

  1. 092817 IL Reduce temptation, employee fraud with these 10 best practices_IMAGE_2Segregation of all accounting duties, but with shared knowledge of them. One individual should not control all functions in the finance department – accounts payable and receivable, cash and bank reconciliations, receivables write-offs, customer credit card refunds, titling, etc.
  1. Monthly cash reconciliation to the penny. Train multiple people in your finance department to perform this essential duty, and change the individual who performs this task from time to time.
  1. Mandatory controller vacation. Cross-train personnel so they can cover for the controller, then require the controller’s absence on several consecutive days each year so that “other staff have to get their hands and eyes on the controller’s business.”

092817 IL Reduce temptation, employee fraud with these 10 best practices_IMAGE_3

  1. Mail control. Personally open all invoices and payments that are sent to your business. “These should never be delivered directly to the AR and AP departments still sealed up.”
  1. Annual vendor audit. Pull a list of your vendors and corroborate each corporate name, DBA, address, owner’s name, and phone number, then call to verify the vendor’s authenticity.
  1. Journal entry and general ledger reclassification reviews. Scour the books for “financial acrobatics” and “tricky maneuvers” that might indicate fraud.092817 IL Reduce temptation, employee fraud with these 10 best practices_IMAGE_4
  1. Engage a CPA to drop in with a day’s notice – or no notice at all – to inspect the books onsite.
  1. Parts department controls. Monitor purchasing, look for excesses and imbalances in vendor patterns, and hire an outside party to manage parts inventories. Lock parts rooms and only permit access in pairs with strict, written checkout protocols.
  1. Used and rental/loaner vehicle controls. Conduct regular spot checks of vehicles and their management protocols to ensure vehicles are physically present.
  1. Welcome and encourage whistleblowers. Assure confidentiality for employees who suspect or witness fraud by taking steps such as establishing a fraud-tip hotline.

“As a trusting business owner, it can be difficult to enforce such wary measures, but the value of these controls can’t be overstated,” Buelow wrote. “When you understand and practice the power of prevention, you may not have to suffer losses, prosecute employees, and incur other costs of fraud.”

These best practices may take you a long way toward that goal.

Putting the power of the Extranet to work for your dealership

Dealer Extranet.

They are two of the most powerful words in making deals with Santander Consumer USA (SC).

From the Rehash Tool, which provides the quickest possible turnaround time on new deal structures, to a customized dashboard that offers daily stats, notifications and reports on your deals with SC, the Dealer Extranet is a competitive tool that should be part of your everyday routine.

IL-BLOG_70918-1 (092617 IL Putting the power of the Extranet to work for your dealership)_Logo_300x300 (1)Those aren’t the only reasons, though, as our fall dealer email series, Tools to Power Sales, will show, starting in October with two of our tips for using the Extranet to your dealership’s advantage. More tips will follow via email, along with other topics that can affect your store’s results.

“One of our greatest assets is our Dealer Extranet, especially for high-volume dealers,” said Stephen Rivelli, an area sales manager in New York.

“The ease of use and the multi-functionality of it, from rehashing an application to funding, allows my dealers a fast, user-friendly experience from application to funded. I stress the importance and use of the Extranet with all my dealers … [and] they usually see the light.”

In fact, thousands of dealership sales associates already have recognized the value of the Extranet and use it to maximize their results with SC and to manage their businesses better.

So you don’t have to wait for the upcoming emails to get started on the SC Dealer Extranet.

You can make the site an integral part of your dealership’s routine by asking your ASM or an inside sales manager (ISM) to set up a new user login – or logins for multiple users at your store. Your ASM/ISM also can help you discover the many features the Extranet provides your activated account.

Your ASM/ISM also is available to answer any questions that might arise or to reset your password.

When you’re set up on the Dealer Extranet, you can log in here and use it whenever you want. And put the power of the Dealer Extranet in your competitive arsenal.

When you want to drive business …

071317 IL When You Want to Drive Business...

The power of the Rehash Tool

A little effort can go a long way.

And what dealer wouldn’t commit a little bit extra to double, triple, even quadruple his/her contract closure rate with Santander Consumer USA?

That “extra” would be using the SC Rehash Tool on the Dealer Extranet.

Some dealers already know that, but there are many more who are missing out on this opportunity to boost their results by finding the “best structure for our customers to fit their needs and ours.”

“Closure rates were much higher for dealers who used the [Rehash Tool], because dealers have the ability to make infinite changes to the deal structure in order to find what combination works best for them and the customer versus taking or leaving our initial approval,” said an SC Regional Sales Manager.

“We are putting the buying power into the hands of those dealers who want to seize the opportunity to make their own approvals,” the RSM added.

The art of tweaking

Credit applications aren’t an exact science – many require a little retooling before getting approved.

But instead of spending the short time you have with your customers on the phone with a buyer, you can update numbers, revise the type of vehicle, add backend, etc. You simply plug the information into the rehash tool and receive a new structure in real time.

And the Rehash Tool is available 24/7, allowing you to work deals on your timetable.

“We love the Rehash Tool because it allows us to maximize profit and capture each deal,” said Elford Nolan, finance director for Jack Miller Kia in North Kansas City, MO. “Within minutes we know how to best structure for our customers to fit their needs and ours.”

‘User-friendly experience’

While the Rehash Tool is a good reason to use the Dealer Extranet, there are others, including tracking your deals in funding to see if you need additional documentation, uploading stips that go directly into the funder’s queue, printing a purchase letter with total funded and applicable fees, and accessing the dealer resources section containing documents important to doing business with SC.

“One of our greatest assets is our Dealer Extranet, especially for high-volume dealers,” said Stephen Rivelli, an ASM in the Bronx, NY. “The ease of use and the multi-functionality of it, from rehashing an application to funding, allows my dealers a fast, user-friendly experience.”

For more on the Rehash Tool, see the video below, ask your ASM or contact SC’s sales department.