Dealer Aaron Zeigler on the pre-owned market, EV adoption, and vehicle affordability

Every dealer wants to see their sales improve, but what are you doing to get there? Joining us on today’s edition of Inside Automotive is Aaron Zeigler, President of Zeigler Automotive Group, who gives us an update on his operations and the current state of automotive retail.

Now the 23rd-ranked dealer group for used cars in the country, according to Automotive News, Zeigler embraced the pre-owned market since virtually every new car is pre-sold. Unlike what other groups do with distinctly different brands for pre-owned storefronts, their standalone used car store operates under the Zeigler banner for consistency in branding. Zeigler says, “I think that it makes a lot of sense, at least for us, to keep the same brand name on the new car stores as you would on the pre-owned store.”

Zeigler believes that the US is at the beginning of a recession, noting high inflation rates and climbing interest rates put pressure on the industry. He forecasts that new car inventory will take 18 to 24 months to return to normal levels, but there will need to be a more efficient model than pre-pandemic.

Shoppers today are going online and using modern retailing tools, but as Zeigler says, “Very few complete the transaction online because there are just questions a computer can’t answer.” It’s the relationships that sell cars.

Zeigler Auto Group has focused its marketing efforts on used cars, and its inventory reflects it. Their pre-owned inventory has more than tripled, from around 2,000 to 6,500 units.

Zeigler is skeptical about accelerated EV adoption, mentioning that the average EV is $67,000 – a price that’s unattainable for most Americans. And those EVs still come with limitations that customers need to live with. He says, “They’re not ready for primetime.”

In the near future, Zeigler expects that there will be more discussion about vehicle affordability as the economy tightens up, and credit availability could constrict too.

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