Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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.

How Santander sales team helped feed hungry families

Take action.

That’s what members of the sales team from Santander Consumer USA (SC) did at Action Ministries in Atlanta, GA.

“We wanted to be able to work with an organization that we knew would benefit the community,” said one SC associate who participated as part of the company’s volunteer paid time off (VPTO) program.

Action Ministries provides food boxes to hungry families in a state with the third-highest poverty rate in the nation and ranked sixth for food insecurity.

110217 IL How Santander sales team helped feed hungry families_IMAGE_1“We prepared boxes of food for local children in need so that they would have something to eat over the weekend and/or during breaks from school,” explained another SC associate who helped box a few of the 27,000 food packages that the Atlanta organization will provide to hungry families this year.

RELATED

Calling all volunteers: Santander Consumer associates making a difference

“Many underprivileged kids don’t have decent meals outside of school, so these boxes contain enough food to feed a family of four for several days and gets them through the time when school lunches aren’t available,” the associate said.

“It’s hard to imagine a child going home from school on a Friday and not having enough to eat until they go back to school on Monday.”

It has been one year since the launch of SC’s volunteer program, with SC employees working more than 10,000 hours in the first nine months for charitable organizations across the country.

In fact, the response to the program from employees and charitable organizations has been so positive that the auto lender decided to add a second VPTO day for full-time employees beginning in October 2017.

Giving back more time to help people in need and enrich the lives of associates was a no brainer for SC, especially when employees bring back their experiences to share the positive impact they left on the community.

Even though the Action Ministries session was fairly short, it left a lasting impression as explained by one of the SC volunteers.

“We stood in front of the sign at Action Ministries that read ‘We are Life-Changers,’ and I really feel like for many children – and their families – that would be receiving those boxes of food, we absolutely were.”

SC volunteers at Action Ministries were Barbara Fortune, sales director; Jay Pusser, regional sales manager, and area sales managers Brian Corbett, Ashley Quick, Katrina Hensley and Darby Ross.

To see more SC associates using their volunteer time off, follow us on our social media pages, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as #SCGivesBack.

Volunteer “Life Changers” at Action Ministries in Atlanta.

Volunteer “Life Changers” at Action Ministries in Atlanta.

 

-Candace Brand

Why the car buying experience still appeals to millennials

There’s something about a shopper getting his hands on the steering wheel of a new car that can’t be replaced. And it apparently doesn’t matter whether he’s a millennial – or an older shopper.

As millennials – people born between 1980 and 1994 — abandon most retail stores in droves, there remains a need to buy a car in person. In a recent survey, 62 percent of American millennials said they plan to buy their next car at a dealership rather than online.

As a millennial, I remember buying my car at a dealership as vividly as my college graduation. Like generations before, car-buying memories define the eras in which we grow up and help shape who we are. Whether you are buying your first or tenth vehicle, visiting the dealership is a rare occurrence for most and still makes each car purchase a milestone event.

 

103117 IL Why the car buying experience still appeals to millennials

 

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In my case, it came down to choosing between two cars, and I had done my research for a few days. Both cars had a great gas mileage and were known to last for a lot of miles. I was torn and did not know which one to choose. I decided I would make my choice based on the test drive.

Stepping into both cars raised more questions: How comfortable is the seating? How sensitive are the brakes and throttle? Do I envision myself driving this on my morning commute?

As I drove, those questions were answered – and the clearer my choice became. By the time we made it back to the lot, I knew without a doubt which car I would choose. When the dotted line was signed and the salesperson put the keys in my hand, I felt like a new era of my life began.

Whether it is the millennial generation or an older shopper, purchasing a car remains one the biggest investments anyone makes along with buying a house or going to college. Just like when customers tour a potential home or university, the best way to know if a car is the right fit is to see for themselves.

While most retail shifts online, the in-person experience remains central to the car buying process. And contrary to expectations that millennials would lose interest in cars, statistics say otherwise.

This past summer, TransUnion conducted a study evaluating the credit trends between millennials and the Gen X generation when they reached age 21 to 34. The study found that millennials have made 21 percent more auto loans and leases than their Gen X counterparts did during the same age window.

Whether a customer is a baby boomer, Gen X, or millennial, one thing remains true across all generations – there’s nothing like when he or she gets their hands on the steering wheel of a new car.

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.

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.