When your Q1 earnings rise, people listen. That’s the case with four publicly traded auto dealership groups. Asbury, AutoNation, Lithia and Sonic all have initiatives in play. All four key on ease of sale and a streamlined buying experience. Some have encountered setbacks. They all remain on track to transform the way consumers shop for cars, though a heightened focus on customer experience signals a change to the industry and dealership processes.
Here’s a snapshot of what the four have in the works.
ASBURY | Q auto stores
Asbury Automotive Group finds itself behind the 8 ball with its Q auto stores. Prospects continue to improve, though.
Craig Monaghan serves as CEO of Asbury, which operates Q Auto representing 3 locations selling pre-owned vehicles. He told Automotive News he sees “run-rate profitability by the end of the year.” Q auto offers one-price transactions on cars. One non-commission associated works with fixed prices on the finance and insurance product.
Q auto’s low cost structure offsets lower front-end gross and F&I income per vehicle.
AUTONATION | Digital storefront
AutoNation switched its websites from informational to transactional.
Sales from its sites trend toward overtaking those from third-party lead providers. AutoNation, which manages service appointments online, will soon add a Buy Your Car feature. Financing, electronic paperwork and service contracts online are also in the works.
LITHIA | DCH Auto Group acquisition
Lithia’s full integration of the auto group could happen 18 months ahead of schedule.
Lithia’s concept of in-house detail centers made an immediate impact on DCH dealerships. It ended the expense of employing vendors for such services. Savings of as much as $80 per car apply not only to customer-pay work as Lithia also saves on detailing cost for used vehicles for resale.
SONIC | No-haggle, 45-minute sales
Sonic wants to take its time to put in place The Sonic-One Experience.
The program involves one sales rep, an iPad, no-haggle pricing and a 45-minute timeframe. At stake: Gained market share thanks to ease of use. While the expense to Sonic on the front end has hindered net income. The company remains optimistic and committed to the initiative.
Auto personalization becomes streamlined, too
This trend toward customer service from influential dealer groups bodes well for other companies. An efficient approach to all stages of car buying, from financing to accessories, places value on processes that give the consumer clear choices and ease of shopping.
Lead-in products and other auto personalization become easier for consumers to access. The entire process moves at the pace set in the age of digital and online commerce.