Autotrader’s Kevin LeSage explains how dealers can regain momentum after the summer slowdown


Labor Day weekend is a time where buyers typically search for new vehicles based on incentives. But with the industry’s inventory shortages, how are dealers changing their strategies? On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome Kevin LeSage, Director of Digital Marketing of Autotrader to discuss ways dealers can remain successful.

Auto sales were squeezed even tighter in August by a worsening supply situation. LeSage says with the summer slowdown, the reality is the available inventory on dealer lots has been failing for months and sales have been slowing as well. The annual new vehicle sales pace in August was forecasted to finish near 14.3 million, which is the slowest pace so far in 2021. August sales volume was expected to fall nearly 9% from a year ago and finish at 1.2 million units. LeSage a lot of dealers he’s working with is focusing on CPO.

Consumers are looking for that like-new inventory and they want to purchase warranties. In July, LeSage says they saw CPO sales of 1.46 million vehicles in the first 6 months of the year, which was an increase of almost a quarter-million vehicles above last year. One of the key ways Autotrader is helping throughout this is leveraging their first-party consumer audience data to drive more predictive insights for their dealers. Moving forward, it boils down to efficiency and matching that inventory to the audience.

Related: How to communicate with customers while working with less inventory

Autotrader has shared a few of the toughest new vehicles consistently selling above full retail price, factoring vehicle availability amid inventory shortage. Consumers and dealers are seeing an uptick in consumers ordering directly from the OEM. LeSageLeSage says he’s starting to see a lot of dealerships starting to advertise that. The scarcity of SUVs, trucks, and minivans is continually getting worse. Consumers have limited choices and higher prices on a lot of vehicles.

COVID forced this industry to rip the band-aid off and adopt quickly with a digital experience says LeSage. Across Autotrader, their biggest focus is educating the consumer to drive those high-quality leads. He says dealers need to be advertising that, ‘if you can’t come to us, we can come to you’. You need different options for different shoppers. He says implementing those tools, measuring consumer engagement, and constantly looking for those efficiencies is where dealers will find the most value moving forward.

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