If you ordered a new vehicle and were told it could take a few weeks to come in, and all you had to do was leave a deposit and wait, you’d be pretty excited, right? Well, what happens when a post-pandemic global chip shortage starts to squeeze automakers’ abilities to deliver their vehicles to their dealer network? Dealers are now delayed in scheduling retail deliveries with their customers and have to disclose missing items.
The chip shortage is creating catastrophic wait times, crippling dealers’ ability to offer vehicles containing the high-tech features many customers want. The outward sensors are controlled by microchip processors, and therefore some manufacturers are building vehicles without the features altogether. Others are simply pausing production. Either way, it’s not a happy problem to have.
There are a variety of anomalies occurring in the automotive industry currently. The biggest challenges we face are managing customer expectations, factory constraints, and used vehicle valuations skewed by current market conditions. The values, because of low supply, are at an all-time high. Meanwhile, increasing delays leave some customers wanting to back out of their orders, while others are waiting weeks and even months. When they do finally take delivery, the sales process suffers greatly.
In the customer’s mind, they were lied to and ignored. They are extremely frustrated. They are anxious about getting their new vehicle. Increases in MSRP and egregious dealer addendums have customers feeling squeezed by the charlatans. After being ignored by their salesperson for the last few months, they have no patience left for our process, and they certainly aren’t interested in spending extra time in the business office listening to our pitch. The customer has the cashier’s check in hand, made out to the penny, and can’t wait to torch you on the factory survey. Those customers are also highly likely to leave a really nice one-Star Google or DealerRater review. Did I miss anything?
Vehicle sales plummeted to some of the lowest levels at the start of COVID, and now that we have sold through the bloated inventory, we are struggling to build it back up again. We are reminded that after enduring what we have all experienced during this pandemic, including its shortage repercussions, people’s psyches have changed — not only our employees, but customers, too. It’s time to readjust our approach, our attitudes, and our actions.
To fix this, we start with an attitude adjustment and increasing the amount of engagement. Simply periodically reach out with updates and let your customers know what’s happening. It makes people feel nice when you call or text them. It makes them feel like a priority. They are happy you didn’t forget them, and they know someone is paying attention to their vehicle and its arrival date.
We change our negative attitudes regarding low inventory — it’s low everywhere. Next, pay attention to our appearances and the vibe we give off. When people are dropping $100,000 on a new Escalade, they want to know we care about their purchase. Finally, take action. Start realizing one of the biggest perks our industry is experiencing — low volume and high profits.
How fortunate are we? You’ve never had to sell fewer vehicles for more gross profit in history. Commissions are at an all-time high, and life is pretty good considering. Get excited about having more time to spend with each customer. During busy times when we give cars away for little to no profit, we are always rushed. We never seem to get quality time, connecting with them and solidifying meaningful relationships. If you spend extra time with customers now, you can set clearer expectations. This allows you to manage communication more effectively during the waiting process. This ensures the delivery is more successful and brings the customer back again for their future purchases in sales and service. It’s time to get re-connected with our customers and stay there.
Justin B Gasman is financial services director for McCaddon Cadillac Buick GMC in Boulder, Colorado.