The 1-Hour Car Deal? Get Real

Conference panelists decry the idea of auto dealerships trying to get customers in and out in 60 minutes.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

August 3, 2015

2 Min Read
Restaurateur turned dealer Don Groppetti says both car buyers and diners dislike being rushed
Restaurateur turned dealer Don Groppetti says both car buyers and diners dislike being rushed.

LOS ANGELES – While some auto-retailing people pursue the seemingly elusive 1-hour car deal, Infiniti’s Jon Finkel is fine with three hours.

Or 3.1 hours, to be exact. That represents “the peak efficiency rate” of how long it should take, beginning to end, for a dealer to sell someone a vehicle, says Finkel, director-client experience and training for Nissan’s luxury unit in the U.S.

“Any faster than that, you’re skipping steps, such as not asking qualifying questions,” he says. Any longer than that, a dealership risks “wasting a customer’s time.” Infiniti stores average an aggregated 4.6 hours.

Toyota’s youth brand Scion is spurring its dealers to strive for 1-hour transactions. It is in part to accommodate Millennial buyers. They’re perceived in some quarters as time-conscious toe-tappers who supposedly want express checkout lanes at dealerships.

But Finkel is among panelists at an industry conference who decry the idea of dealerships hustling to get customers in and out in 60 minutes.

The panel session has a loaded title: “The 1-Hour Car Deal – Why Chasing It Is Bad for Today’s Consumers.”

Not only is it a bad idea, it’s also apparently an impossible dream, at least where dealer Don Groppetti of Groppietti Automotive does business.

“In the state of California, it can’t be done because there are too many regulations to cover (at the closing),” he says at the annual Automotive Customer Centricity Summit here. “Two or three hours, that’s where we want to be.”

Technology and a professional staff can keep the process moving, but a dealership hurrying shoppers is like a restaurant rushing patrons, and neither group of consumers likes that, says Groppetti who began in the restaurant business.

“Customers want salespeople spending time with them,” he says, waving off some survey results indicating many auto consumers are serious clock watchers.

“There are clear pitfalls in a 1-hour deal,” says panel discussion moderator Ron Lamb, president of information technology provider Reynolds and Reynolds. “People don’t want to feel rushed. That’s not a collaborative effort.”

Are there opportunities to shave off time? “Absolutely,” he says. “But speeding up the process has unintended consequences.”

Panelists note the distinction between productive and wasted time. “Waiting to get into the F&I office? Customers hate that,” Finkel says.

Dealerships should try to fill lulls so customers don’t feel they’re needlessly kept waiting, says Russ Ward, vice president of the 5-store Pedder Auto Group based in Hemet, CA, east of Los Angeles.

But the vagaries of the car-selling business can undermine the best plans to handle car shoppers, Groppetti says. “We can have morning traffic, then no traffic, then lots of traffic as we’re about to lock the doors.”

An audience member says that when he buys milk at a convenience store, he expects to pay more because of the convenience of it. Accordingly, he asks panelists Finkel, Groppetti and Ward if they think people would pay a special-treatment premium for a 1-hour car deal.

Their answers: no, no and no.

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