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Mobilization Nation

June 2010, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Gregory Arroyo - Also by this author

The Germain Motor Co., a dealer group with 18 locations dotting Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Alaska. is using mobile technology to communicate with its customers.

Research firms have predicted in recent years that mobile Internet usage could outpace desktop usage within five years. In response, more and more technology companies have introduced new solutions to help dealers take advantage of the mobile marketing phenomenon. Sure, they want to stay ahead of usage trends, but they also believe the mobile realm can deliver a better connection to consumers.

Blazing the trail on the dealer side is Bob Germain, vice president of Germain Motor Co., a dealer group with 18 locations dotting Ohio, Florida, Arizona and Alaska. Germain, who professes to be on the trailing edge of technology, says his Naples, Fla., location’s entry into the mobile world is more about tapping into a cost-effective, metric-wrapped way of communicating with his customers.

“The guys around here make fun of me because there’s still a RAZR phone sitting on my desk,” he says. “But even for a guy like me — an old-school dealer who is all about expense control and watching inventories — the chance to reach customers in real-time, well, there’s nothing more efficient than that.”

The vehicle driving Germain Motor Co. forward is MobiDrives. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company was founded last year by Peer Snoep after he spent an afternoon playing phone tag with a dealership’s service advisor while his vehicle was being repaired. Snoep figured that a platform that allowed dealers to manage dealership-branded mobile apps would be a faster and more effective approach. 

Snoep’s quest eventually led him to Jim McDavid, a 30-year veteran of the automotive industry and former executive of JM&A Group. McDavid, who specializes in income-development strategies for dealers, says the fixed-operations application caught his attention right away.

“What we’re bringing to the table is going to revolutionize how dealers communicate with customers,” says McDavid, noting that the MobiDrives platform can connect to more than 51 dealership management systems. “The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is creating loyal customers who, every time they think about buying, servicing or recommending where to buy a car, will think about your dealership.”

Having worked with McDavid during his days at JM&A, Germain agreed to meet with MobiDrives and listen to the pitch. The dealer was immediately sold on the platform’s ability to push out real-time specials to consumers. What he saw was a chance to replace an age-old way of reaching car buyers: direct mail.

“Direct mail has been almost addicting to our people,” Germain says. “But what you’re really doing with direct mail is a very inefficient way of keeping in touch with your customers.”

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