The swing to using a variety of digital platforms and social media feeds by retail motor dealers in the United States is accelerating and this trend will undoubtedly speed up developments in these spheres in the global automotive space.
Brian Joss – This was one of the key points Mike Paxton, Senior Consultant at Sewells Group South Africa brought back from the 2016 U.S. National Automobile Dealer Association conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Paxton, who has been with Sewells for more than 30 years, has hosted numerous visits by SA motor dealers and related organisations to many of these amazing NADA conferences over the years. He says that every year there are many important lessons to be learned from those people involved in the US retail motor business who are participating in one of the toughest automotive markets in the world.
“Like many of their counterparts in South Africa, the American dealers are innovative and resourceful, particularly when trading conditions get particularly tough, so there is plenty we can learn from them,” said Paxton, who took a group of 22 people to this year’s NADA event.
Sewells has been taking South Africans to this annual NADA event for the past 19 years and Paxton says there are always other groups of South Africans at the conference too. Other countries that give the annual NADA conference regular support are Australia, China, United Kingdom, Brazil and India.
Overall attendance at the conference was in the region of 25 000 people and besides the conference there was a related exhibition with 700 exhibitors.
This year all the events took place at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, with big halls and plenty of breakaway rooms. There were 157 different workshops staged during the conference, covering every possible topic related to the retail motor industry. Paxton says it is usually only possible to attend about six or seven of these workshops during the six days, so one has to choose carefully to ensure maximum benefit.
Another worthwhile programme that Paxton highlighted was the manner in which salespeople should “mine” the workshop. They should contact all those people whose car is going out of service plan or warranty, those with a high mileage and those costing a lot to maintain. In the US the salespeople encourages technicians to team up with them in this programme and the technicians are then paid a spotters’ commission. It was stated that dealers using this strategy have increased sales by up to 24%.
The inspirational address is always one of the highlights of the NADA conference.
This year the speaker was Peyton Manning, a former National Football League quarter back who played for the Denver Broncos. As usual with these addresses there was plenty of food for thought in terms of motivation and inspiration. The importance of the motor industry to the US economy and the NADA conference as an event is evident from the fact that previous speakers at these addresses have been George W Bush and Hilary Clinton.
This year’s group of South Africans who attended the conference with Sewells Group included representatives of the Unitrans Group, Mark White/Scorer Group, AMH Group, Hatfield Holdings, Regent Group and participants in Sewells 2015 Advanced Management Training programme.
The Sewells SA group, which is part of a global consulting and outsourcing company specialising in the automotive retail industry, also visited two of the largest Ford and Chevrolet dealerships in Las Vegas and these visits proved enormously educational too. At one of the dealers the South Africans were split into various groups and had as guides the dealership sales, parts and service managers. It was amazing how much each one knew of the other operations in the dealership which obviously results from cross training of those in key positions so they all know how the dealership’s various operations function.
Some of the other learning points which came out of the visit were: salespeople do not receive a basic salary, but only earn commission; they have to sort out their own car, pension and medical aid; most dealerships are open seven days a week; 80% of sales come via the telephone, e-mail or internet which has resulted in a drastic decline in showroom traffic and many dealers are now putting their best salespeople in the call centre.
Tyres are big business and one dealer confirmed that tyre sales now account for 25% of total parts sales.
Paxton said it was interesting to note that both dealers opened their website home pages with their service departments, underlining the importance of income from servicing today’s retail motor business.
“The feedback from those that went on this 19th Sewells Group SA tour to the annual NADA conference in the United States has been extremely positive,” said Olsen.
“The visits to the Ford and Chevrolet dealerships and the interaction with the dealer personnel were seen as highlights by many. They praised not only the conference aspects of the tour, but also the overall package put together by Sewells Group SA and the efficient and professional manner in which the group was hosted by Mike Paxton.”