Who's System Is It, Anyway?

Dealers must sort out technology's strengths and weaknesses, say panelists at a J.D. Power and Associates automotive conference. There has to be a careful selection of the right technology, says Russ Darrow III, president and chief operating officer of the Russ Darrow Group in Wisconsin. You can overspend and under execute very easily. The technology you choose should pay for itself. Greg W. Penske,

Dealers must sort out technology's strengths and weaknesses, say panelists at a J.D. Power and Associates automotive conference.

“There has to be a careful selection of the right technology,” says Russ Darrow III, president and chief operating officer of the Russ Darrow Group in Wisconsin. “You can overspend and under execute very easily. The technology you choose should pay for itself.”

Greg W. Penske, president of Penske Automotive Group in El Monte, CA, says dealers need to be telling vendors what they want — not the other way around.

“Pick and choose what technology can help you,” says Penske. He says a system is flawed if it makes an Internet customer click through five screens to get the information he or she wants.

“Technology can do the opposite of what it's supposed to do,” says Beau Boeckmann, vice president of Galpin Motors in Southern California. “It was supposed to simplify our work, but we had to add an Internet department just so we had someone to handle all of the e-mails.”

Dealership information technology is effective if used properly by the right people, says Rhett Ricart, president of the Ricart Automotive Group in Ohio.

“We have people who don't like it and can't learn it, yet we try to shove it down their throats,” he says. “If you grasp it and get the right people using it, it can do something for you.”

Mike Sullivan, president of Sullivan Automotive Group in Santa Monica, CA, says technology can “give people the tools to be good sales people when they are not necessarily natural sales people.”

Darrow says better technology helps attract and keep good salespersons, and makes them more professional.

Technology in the dealership still is behind other industries, though. “We like to be fast followers,” says Penske. “If you look at what the airline and credit industries do with their technology, our software just now is getting to the point where we can start doing some of those things.”

Boeckmann hopes for a company that can simplify the technology environment and make it easier for dealers. “That would be a godsend,” he says.

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