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Is your dealership truly equipped to sell cars online? — David Lewis

Today on CBT Now, we’re pleased to welcome back David Lewis, President and CEO of David Lewis and Associates and the host of the long-running CBT show, Straight Talk, to discuss the latest in consumer buying patterns online and in-store.

Lewis says consumers’ buying habits are “absolutely different” compared to just a couple of years ago, as prospective buyers no longer make visiting dealerships a part of their car buying journeys. He recounts recently telling his son to opt out of dealership visits and instead browse online, send emails, and then buy the car from one of them.

While many transactions are now being conducted entirely online, Lewis reports he was “shocked” at the lack of communication from dealers when shopping for his son’s car. He feels like dealers “think they’re prepared” for online sales but actually “are really not.” In one instance, a dealer Lewis reached out to said his email was redirected to his spam box, and he never saw it.

A dealer that Lewis’s son reached out to, however, was very prepared and reportedly sent him a video of the vehicle he was inquiring about, even using his son’s name in it. In the end, this was the dealer they bought a car from.

Lewis agrees that many dealers currently believe that due to high demand, every car on their lots will be sold regardless of whether they miss out on an online sale opportunity. He reports dealers have even admitted their sales staff isn’t the most dedicated, but they “don’t care” because every car they receive will definitely be sold.

This will change, Lewis says, and dealers who get stuck in this mindset will need to “be prepared to have some really bad months” while they retrain sales staff.

Another important question to consider is whether or not OEMs will ramp up the use of the online direct-to-consumer sales model more as satisfaction with auto dealers wanes. Lewis notes he thinks they will, as Tesla has proven it works.

Related: Dealer Andy Wright weighs in on OEM direct-to-consumer selling models

Lewis suggests dealers need to eliminate the mindset that they are the best around and “prepare for today, prepare for tomorrow.” He says they also need to change their opposing viewpoints of vendors who try to sell them products and services and instead have the mindset that “every person is a viable consumer.”

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