NANUET, NY — Walk into the showroom at Honda of Nanuet and all you see are used cars — all of them accessorized. The new cars are outside.
“This way, we can advertise that we have an indoor used-car showroom,” chuckles Jack Ryan, general manager. “And the accessories help us sell them faster.”
Old-time, hard-core sales guys. There is no other way to describe the management team of this dealership. Always looking for an angle to help sell more cars. Their eyes light up when they talk about selling cars. They live the business. They understand what it means to be a car dealer.
But there is a wrinkle to this story. Often, hard-core sales people shun the Internet, saying, “We don't need technology to sell cars.”
The Nanuet guys have seen the future — and embrace it. Their enthusiasm for the Internet almost equals their obsession for selling cars. They say the dealership is taking sales from competitors who fail to understand the web's advantage.
Ryan began running the store when the United Auto Group bought it in May 2001. At the time, the dealership averaged 110 new-car and 12 used-car sales a month.
In 2004, the dealership averaged 220 new vehicles and 72 used vehicles a month. That is with a used-car lot that holds 50 vehicles.
“We were able to build this business using the Internet,” Ryan says. The dealership, located 40 minutes northwest of Manhattan, sold 1,106 vehicles — 914 new and 192 used — online in 2004, good enough to rank 58th on this year's Ward's e-Dealer 100.
Mike Fiorentino, used-car manager, was at the dealership under the previous ownership and skeptical at first when Ryan came in talking about selling more cars using the Internet. Fiorentino now is a believer. “It's great what we've been able to do with it,” he says.
He remembers watching the day after UAG acquired the store as one transporter truck after another delivered a total of 65 used vehicles. “We sold every one,” he says.
Ryan credits his staff. He uses “we” rather than “I” when highlighting the success of the dealership. He interrupts an interview to introduce staffers and cite their contributions.
Steve Pincus, the sales and Internet manager, is someone Ryan relies on. He goes 24/7, routinely responding to shoppers e-mails all hours of the day.
“Customers ask, ‘Does this guy ever sleep?’” says Ryan.
Pincus considers himself to be a sales manager first who loves and understands the Internet. He took on the job of Internet manager when Ryan hired him a few years ago. Soon after coming aboard, Pincus devised a unique system that involves the entire sales department in the Internet process.
Pincus, and his Internet department staff of Mike Britt and Mike Kenny handle selling to the online leads. Once the sale is completed and the finance and insurance department makes its pitch, the dealership's sales people with the top customer satisfaction ratings handle the delivery.
For each vehicle they deliver, they receive a $100 spiff. The vehicles also count toward their monthly bonus.
The Internet sales people get paid a salary and a percentage of what they sell. It does not matter what their gross is. That is the F&I department's responsibility.
Pincus thinks the system has multiple advantages. First, it frees his staff to focus on selling. “How is my guy supposed to respond to online leads if he is making a delivery?” he says.
Also, the floor sales people have incentive to maintain and improve their customer satisfaction scores. At first there was some grumbling, Pincus admits, but “now the sales people love the Internet department.”
The standard at Nanuet is to respond to every Internet lead within 15 minutes. Pincus admits it is tough, but that is what they strive for. The dealership averages about 400 leads a month.
The store goes above and beyond with the information it gives customers. Pricing, invoice information and freight and destination charges are all provided up front.
“I look at us as being the guys in the white hats,” Pincus says. “We tell everything up front. I don't want customers coming in saying, ‘How come you didn't tell us this before?’”
Internet responses include a range of information, from touting specials to giving the hours of operation.
“We're selling the dealership,” Ryan says. “We answer the questions the first time. People want to do business with pros, and that's what we are here.”
Perhaps most critical to the dealership's success according to both Pincus and Ryan, is an organization that supports it and understands the value of the Web.
“When you start talking about UAG, you begin with (CEO) Roger (Penske),” Ryan says. “He is a great person to work for and runs a first-class company.
“And then there is Andy Shapiro who is the vice president of the DiFeo division who understands and believes in the Internet. And that is a big part of our success.”