The Industry's Leading Source For F&I, Sales And Technology

Finance

Dealer Eliminates BDC, Creates Hybrid Department

Eliminating the business development center could be the death knell for any dealership in today’s Internet age, but not for Honda of Tenafly. In fact, it’s had the opposite effect.

July 2011, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Gregory Arroyo - Also by this author

The hybrid sales department that Arthur McCracken, Internet manager, Norman Dorf, owner, and sales strategist Cory Mosley constructed more than a year ago is already converting 10 percent of the dealership’s leads. The goal now is to get to 15 percent.
The hybrid sales department that Arthur McCracken, Internet manager, Norman Dorf, owner, and sales strategist Cory Mosley constructed more than a year ago is already converting 10 percent of the dealership’s leads. The goal now is to get to 15 percent.

"The easy part is to sell you the car,” Donald Dwan, general sales manager of Honda of Tenafly, tells the camera. “The big job is, after we do that, how do we take care of you?” Asking that simple question has helped to create the customer-first culture at the 79-year-old New Jersey dealership. Maintaining that image in today’s Internet age, however, has proven to be far more complicated.

The two-minute video Dwan appears in is part of a new ad campaign the dealership rolled out in late June to announce that the operation was removing the “D&C” from “D&C Honda of Tenafly.” That change will help to distinguish the dealership from one of its biggest competitors, a nearby Honda store operated by DCH Auto Group.

That low-tech change, however, is nothing compared to the many changes Tenafly’s third-generation owners, Norman Dorf and brother Jeffrey, have made to compete in the digital realm.

Two years ago, the dealership decided to eliminate its business development center. Veteran salespeople now handle Internet leads and work the phones. “We were spending a fortune on manning a decent-sized Internet department and we were going through people all the time,” Norman Dorf says. “That meant we had the least experienced people taking calls. Something just didn’t feel right.”

The Costs of Technology

The D&C name has existed in New Jersey’s Bergen County — one of the highest per-capita income counties in the United States — since 1932. That’s when the family opened a Chevrolet dealership at its County Road location. In 1971, it became the state’s first Honda store.

The store, which sells, on average, 200 to 250 vehicles per month, was on track for one of its best years when the credit markets froze after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. Things could have been worse for the dealership if not for the support of the affluent community it serves.

The following year wasn’t much better, but not any worse. “Like everyone else, we made some adjustments with staffing and getting our expense structure right when the downturn happened,” Dorf says.

Online sales have allowed Dorf’s family-owned operation, tucked away in one corner of town, to compete with the area’s “800-pound gorilla,” the 27-store DCH Auto Group. The group’s biggest Honda store is located a mere eight miles away, but that didn’t stop Honda of Tenafly from recording five record sales months last year. Still, that doesn’t mean Dorf is a big fan of the Internet.

“The one thing I don’t like about the Internet is that it nickel and dimes you,” he says. “I mean, we’re spending a fortune between all the different technology companies. And now I need to pay someone to handle my Facebook page?”

Those rising costs were the primary reason Jeffrey Dorf decided to listen in on a few calls between customers and BDC operators. He was not impressed. “That’s when we said, ‘Forget it,’” he recalls. “There had to be another way, so we just got rid of it.”

Your Comment

Please note that comments may be moderated. 
Leave this field empty:
Your Name:  
Your Email: