Customers are flying in from across the country to get a deal on pre-owned, everyday cars at Century Motors. How did customers learn of the South Florida-based independent dealership? eBay Motors.
The husband and wife team of Gina and Frank Fuzy have been in the car business for more than two decades. They ventured into retail and onto eBay Motors about 11 years ago after working as vehicle wholesalers for the bulk of their careers. And every day, they’re proving that the website isn’t just a marketplace for moving exotics or hard-to-find classic cars. So, what’s their secret?
"We spend more time than our competitors creating a nice-looking listing," Frank says. "We take more pictures than our competitors, we start our auctions at a lower price than our competitors and we promote our phone number and e-mail address on our listings more than anyone else."
It’s a simple strategy, but one that helped the dealership become a "Top Seller" among the 15,000 dealerships currently using the site. The designation is bestowed on dealers who have collected more than 2,500 positive comments from past customers.
"Century Motors’ phone literally rings off the hook and the real strength of its business is the people who work there," says Clayton Stanfield, manager of dealer training for eBay Motors. "They love and have fun selling on eBay and treat their customers wonderfully."
Becoming an eBay Dealer
The Fuzys took to eBay Motors one year after it was launched in 1999. The vehicle that got them hooked on the site was a red Mitsubishi GT3000, which was sold to a customer in Tokyo.
"From that point on, it just exploded," Frank says. Today, 90 percent of the store’s sales originate on eBay Motors; the rest are sold on AutoTrader.com.
Selling on eBay Motors, where 75 percent of vehicles are sold across state lines, does pose some logistical challenges, however. The dealership rolls about 40 to 50 vehicles a week, but only 10 percent of the store’s customers reside in South Florida. To deliver their vehicles, Century uses CentralDispatch, a San Diego-based transportation service 50 percent of its customers opt for.
Storing vehicles was another issue, which is why Fuzy and his wife opened up a $2 million showroom four years ago. It can hold about 40 cars at one time. In May, they purchased a 20,000-square-foot reconditioning facility that can hold an additional 250 cars. Both of those investments, however, serve an aesthetic function as well: the facilities double as backdrops for the store’s online listings.
"We designed our new building with eBay Motors in mind," Fuzy says. "For the guy in Minnesota browsing through our cars, he sees the palm trees and gets excited about the vehicle and where it is."
The Power of Truth
Despite what he knows today, Fuzy says he remains a student of the online game. But no matter how much his strategies change, there’s one thing that will always remain consistent: the accuracy of his vehicle descriptions.
Fuzy, his wife and their three-person team go to great lengths to ensure shoppers get a clear picture of a vehicle’s condition. That is why each listing is accompanied by more than 100 photos and a money-back guarantee, which is good for as long as the customer owns the vehicle.
"We want to show customers each feature of the car and confirm what’s shown in the written descriptions," Fuzy says, adding that their descriptions focus on how the vehicle drives, feels, looks and smells. "We also focus on the facts: service records, owner history and accident history."
EBay Motors’ Stanfield says Top Sellers like Century Motors typically post 40 to 60 photos for every vehicle listed — or more if the vehicle is a classic or hard-to-find model. He adds that vehicle listings also should focus on the strengths of the dealer selling it, because selling one’s store is just as important as selling the vehicle in the online marketplace.
"If you expect to sell vehicles and sell them for a strong price, then you need to be able to impress the online shopper just as you do someone who walks through your front door," Stanfield explains. "And if your online presence is weak, the buyer will go to your competitor."
Choose the Fleet
Up until four months ago, Century Motors operated without an F&I office. Today, the dealership counts itself among the few independent operations to qualify for Chase’s retail financing programs. Being without an F&I office for so long, however, meant the husband-and-wife team had to become experts at buying the right inventory for the right price. And according to Fuzy, it takes more than a good eye to do that.
When it comes to sourcing inventory, the couple stays away from those pricier one- to two-year-old vehicles, choosing instead to seek out eight- to nine-year-old vehicles in near-mint condition. "We have developed a knack for finding clean, well-maintained cars," Fuzy proclaims. "We look for low-mileage and when we examine a prospective car, we see if it’s mechanically sound."
The used-car outlet also certifies its vehicles with the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA), a process that includes a 100-point inspection. Fuzy says certification is important because most of his vehicles will have to make the long trek back to his customers’ homes, most of which are located as far as 1,500 miles away.
Variety also is key, Fuzy adds. The dealership does focus on affordable, everyday cars, but the inventory also includes a handful of Ferraris and Bentleys. "We believe it’s this variety that increases pre-owned sales and sets us apart," Fuzy explains. "For example, we have a 1994 Mustang sitting next to a 2007 Cadillac STS. When a customer walks onto the lot, we want a $3,000 car to look as good as the $50,000 car."
The Feedback Effect
More than 4.55 million vehicles have been sold on eBay Motors since its launch 13 years ago. More than 6,000 vehicles are sold every week through the company’s mobile app alone. According to Stanfield, customers go to the site for four reasons: convenience, selection, pricing and trust. eBay accomplishes the latter by offering shoppers an AutoCheck Vehicle History Report and a Buyer Protection Program, but Stanfield says feedback is what really drives sales for participating dealers.
"It doesn’t matter how convenient you make it, nor how great your selection or price is," Stanfield says. "If the buyers don’t trust you or the process, then they will not buy from you. And Century Motors embraces what eBay shoppers are looking for."
That’s why the Fuzys are careful not to overstate the condition of a vehicle or use words like "Perfect" in their descriptions. And so far, the dealership has earned the maximum five-star rating for description and communication with 146 customers weighing in.
"It is really the customers who have helped us succeed online," Fuzy says. "They give us positive feedback and then prospective consumers trust that feedback system."
Stanfield adds: "If you look at [Century’s] feedback from customers, many of those people are repeat buyers. These are people who bought a car on eBay and had it shipped to their home. To me, that is how you tell if they’re a great dealer. Anyone can sell a car cheap, but only the best sell lots of cars, grow their business and create raving fans along the way."