Cash for Clunkers is over after generating nearly 707,000 direct sales, along with indirectly aiding countless other sales for customers not eligible for the program.
Now what? Most analysts are afraid September sales will experience a downturn without the popular government financing.
Many of you have stories of crowded showrooms and of customers racing to the dealership in the hours before Cash for Clunkers ended in order to buy a car. The industry hasn't seen that sort of excitement in years.
Wouldn't it be nice to continue that momentum the next several months?
I recently saw the fictional movie The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard which details how a traveling sales team puts on a 4-day event to save a dealership from closing in Temecula, CA. There's one scene that struck me. The last day of the event, a hyped up concert at the dealership fails miserably and results in a riot.
TV news cameras captured the chaos. Unmitigated disaster, right?
Far from it. The scene's star, Jeremy Piven (playing Don Ready) grabs a microphone, jumps in front of the news cameras and invites all of Temecula's police department and anybody wearing anything resembling police gear to the dealership and promises a hefty incentive (I'm little shaky on the details — left my reporters' notebook at the office) if they made it to the store by closing time.
Sure enough, it's a Hollywood ending. But I think there is a lesson here. I couldn't help but think Piven was capturing what being a dealer was all about with that stunt.
Instead of complaining how bad things were, he improvised and turned a bad situation into a winner.
Many of you did just that with Cash for Clunkers. A group of 73 dealers created their own stimulus plan (you can see the details at www.automotivestimulusplan.com) to compensate for some of the drawbacks of the government's plan. Dealers participating in the program have raved about its success.
A recent email from the dealer marketing firm OneCommand detailed the story of a California dealer who last year held a Labor Day picnic, bringing in more than 13,000 people. It was a weeklong celebration that generated more than $400,000 in service-department work and more than 1,600 repair orders, and who knows how many customer contacts?
The point is, be creative, improvise and take control. If traffic slows, figure out a way to get it back.
On another note, a conversation with a dealer in Texas drives home the importance of paying attention to contracts you have with your vendors.
This dealer says she now is instructing her staff to give her all vendor contracts to review. She recently caught a uniform vendor raising prices 8% when the contract clearly stipulates it can only raise prices 3% each year.
On another contract, she found the dealership was being charged $62 a month when the vendor owed it $1,200.
Doesn't sound like much, but it adds up month after month. So the message here is pay attention, be creative and improvise.