Adjusting to the New Auto Customer
With more than 91% of Americans researching their purchases and/or making their purchases online today, it’s no wonder that auto dealers are adjusting to accommodate this way of buying.
“This shift in buying cars online started before the pandemic,” explains Mylas Copeland, General Manager and Managing Partner, Green Toyota Volkswagen Audi in Springfield, IL. “But once the pandemic really hit, we saw – and continue to see – a dramatic change in our customers’ buying style.”
Copeland, a former radio broadcaster and radio sales executive, has been at Green Family Stores for 25 years… plenty of time to witness sales trends first-hand.
“All dealers are seeing that customers are doing a lot more car research online, preparing for a purchase earlier, and willing to wait for exactly what they want,” he says. “Gone are the days when someone walks into our dealership on a Saturday to ‘look around’ and buys a car that day. Impulse shopping is a thing of the past and people are willing to wait.”
The Green Toyota Volkswagen Audi inventory is starting to come back, but like all dealers, is still way down. “For our Toyota brand specifically, we used to enjoy between 250-400 available cars at one time,” Copeland says. “Today, we have about 70 vehicles on the board and many of those are already pre-sold. We need to see customers face-to-face to match them with a vehicle.”
So, what’s a dealer to do?
Representing many brands is an advantage, Copeland says. His salespeople have found that in some cases they have been able to pivot buyers to a similar type of auto from another manufacturer just by walking to a different area of the showroom. In addition, he has implemented a loaner program for buyers who must wait for their vehicle, keeping the relationship – and the sale – secure.
As a natural result of lower inventory, service has become a bigger part of his business as buyers hold onto their vehicles longer due to wait times or rising costs. Putting money into higher mileage vehicles is much more common and, like many dealers, Green is leaning more into this profit center.
Copeland has also increasingly focused on community relationships and remains open to opportunities to support area not-for-profits and organizations. Recently, his dealership sponsored a Martin Luther King breakfast event, “Denim & Diamonds” benefit for the Simmons Cancer Institute, The Hope Institute, St. Jude, Route 66, an annual coat drive for children in the community, and many area youth sports activities.
Mentoring good people
As a dealer of color in an industry with a small percentage of minority owners, Copeland is particularly committed to encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in his business. “If I can open doors for people, I’m very happy to,” Copland explains. “I try to share the wisdom I’ve learned over the years, especially to individuals from difficult backgrounds. I try to help them find opportunities.”
Copeland looks positively to the future and values good employees to help get through the tough business seasons. He enjoys challenging his employees to be even better. “Iron sharpens iron,” he explains.
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