Single-point auto dealerships faced many unique challenges throughout the pandemic. Today on CBT News, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Robert Loehr, Owner of Robert Loehr Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM SRT & FIAT. Loehr represents a large sector of automotive dealers that aren’t connected to major retail companies such as Sonic, AutoNation, or Lithia.
Loehr begins the conversation by discussing some of the critical decisions he was forced to make during the pandemic. In the fall of 2019, Loehr had finished paying off the money he had borrowed to buy out his business partner’s portion of the business. Just as he began to feel confident about moving forward without any debt, COVID hit his community in Cartersville, Georgia. Loehr was proactive during the pandemic, cutting low-level expenses that would allow the dealership to continue normal operations. The dealership made the decision to cut advertising by about $50,000 per month. He then put more money towards improving the dealership’s online experience.
From a profitability standpoint, Loehr had the best year ever in 2020. He made the decision to keep his budgets tight throughout the year, allowing the dealership to reap the benefits of higher profits per vehicle transaction. Loehr says that many of his changes made during the year will carry over into 2021 and beyond.
As a single-point auto dealership, Loehr said he was able to stay ahead of the larger groups. Single-point dealers can implement changes faster, and they have the flexibility to pivot to meet the needs of consumers more quickly. This was extremely evident through digital retailing. Loehr was able to get a feel for what his customers wanted from his dealership during the pandemic, and the dealership was able to make the adjustments to answer those needs.
Loehr concludes the conversation by discussing the electric vehicle companies that are seeking to sell directly to consumers. Loehr says that the best way to keep these disruptors from overrunning the franchise system is to beat them at their own game. Loehr references the recent merger between FCA and PSA Groupe to create Stellantis, citing the company’s plans to offer more capable electric offerings to consumers. With strong electric options, larger OEMs can help franchise dealers compete against direct sellers. Loehr is confident that if he is given a similar vehicle at the same price, he will be able to provide a better selling process than the disruptors.
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