Lisa Copeland on Industry Trends, Dealer’s Pain Points, and Fiat Leaving the U.S. Market

Lisa Copeland

On today’s show, we welcome back Lisa Copeland, founder of Lisa Copeland Global and CEO of Cars Her Way. Lisa always has great insight and industry knowledge to share with us, and in this segment, Lisa and Jim discuss the Hustle and Grind Conference, Fiat, and industry headwinds and tailwinds.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Hello, everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thank you so much for joining us on another edition of CBT News. On today’s show, we welcome back the one and only Lisa Copeland, who is the founder of Cars Her Way. Lisa has all this great insight and industry knowledge to share with us. So glad to have you back, Lisa.

Lisa Copeland: Well, thanks for having me back. It’s always a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. And now we can add to the title that we just spoke about, radio show host. Talk to us about that.

Lisa Copeland: Oh, I’m very excited. I’ve done a deal with iHeartRadio. And I met with the team, and they came to me and they said, “Lisa, it’s like you’re the only person on planet earth,” literally that was the words, “that is out there advocating for female consumers, but also a friend of the dealers,” as a former automotive dealer. And so we are launching the show in Houston, Texas, iHeartRadio. It’s a call-in radio show for women. It’s called Cars Her Way, but I know that the men will call in. There’s just such a mystery and a shroud around the automotive industry. And so I really want to be a great consumer advocate, but I’m also an advocate for the dealers.

So hopefully I can be that middle person live on 7:40 AM in Houston, Texas, 7:40 AM, the radio station. It’s the number one news station in Houston. But iHeart and myself, we just both felt like there was a need for that, where people can come and they can get an answer, or answers to their questions from me. I don’t have any skin in the game. I’m no longer a car dealer, but I sure have a lot of knowledge.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. And the call letters are KTRH? And that’s in Houston?

Lisa Copeland: KTRH. Yes. 7:40 AM News Radio, Houston, TX.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. Fantastic. And I’m sure with iHeartRadio, you can probably listen to that anywhere. Right? Pretty much from their-

Lisa Copeland: Yes. They’re also turning it into a podcast, and they’re going to be streaming, and it will be going out on Facebook live from iHeart and from Cars Her Way, and then also some of our sponsors, which are several dealers down in Houston. So if you’re in Houston, Texas, Sundays, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM Central Standard Time, and we go live June 2nd.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, congratulations to you.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That is awesome.

Lisa Copeland: Thank you. Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You’ll have to come back on the show and talk to us about how that’s going after you’ve launched.

Lisa Copeland: Oh, yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So talk to us about what you’ve been doing most recently. I know that you spoke at the Hustle and Grind Conference. I think it was in Miami.

Lisa Copeland: It was in Orlando.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Orlando. Okay.

Lisa Copeland: Yes. And I want to give a big shout out to Glenn Lundy, Dave Benson, Shawn Hays. They’ve done such a great job of empowering the sales community within the automotive industry. And it was absolutely … It’s one of my absolute favorite conferences to attend and to speak at every single year. So many times these conferences, Jim, you’ve got NADA, and you’ve got some of these bigger conferences, and they’re really geared toward general managers.

They’re geared toward dealer principals. And this conference is geared toward empowering salespeople. And they had all these houses, these mansions set up. So I had the “Women in Automotive,” “Female Hustle House” … It wasn’t what it sounds like.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I was gonna say-

Lisa Copeland: But I had 17-

Jim Fitzpatrick: … a Female Hustle House?

Lisa Copeland: Female Hustle House. I’m telling you, but why we had 17 women, and it was sponsored by TrueCar. I have to put a shout out to my friends at TrueCar, sponsored by TrueCar, Kerri Wise. And we had 17 women that we came together, myself, Liza Boches, who is a dealer principal for Carter Myers. She’s got 14 franchises, Kerri Wise and myself, and Danelle Delgado. We just got to pour into these women. And so many of these women, they’re service advisors, they’re salespeople, they’re out there trying to make it in the industry. And so they had unlimited access to us for two days. And we sat, and we brainstormed around the table, and we gave them what I feel like was really solid advice on how to take their career in the automotive industry to the next level.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Now that we’re in the second quarter, Lisa, talk to us about what some of the tailwinds and headwinds look like in the industry, and the areas that dealers should be concerned with.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. I think coming into 2019, I think dealers were really nervous about a reduced, but it looks like the industry is going to close strong in 2019. I think that first quarter, I think we were a little bit slow, but we’re already seeing with March sales numbers that came out, that I think ’19 is going to be a good year. But what can they do? I think the biggest pressure, at least on my dealers right now, is compressed margins. They’re constantly asking me at the end of the month when we’re going through their financials and we’re going through the strategies, “Lisa, what do we do? How do we squeeze a little bit more out of every single customer? Because it’s getting tough out there.”

So a dealership has got to be smart in what they do, and I think it starts with hiring the right people. I think it is really looking at your advertising and your advertising budgets, and deciding who is that consumer, who is that avatar, that we’re looking to bring into our dealerships? And of course, all of you know me. My battle cry is for women. Female consumers do not buy at the same rate that men do, because they don’t like the experience. So just imagine that you create a wonderful place for female consumers, and for female retail salespeople to work, because…

And I also think that there needs to be a lot more emphasis on social media marketing and allowing salespeople to start building their own brand. And I know Shawn Hays was on your show, and he spoke about that. And I agree with him a million percent, because I feel like that dealers for years have underutilized the power of their sales force and the power of their sales force’s influence. And so I think by training them how to authentically go out and market, or talk about what they do within their own sphere of influence, where it’s not salesy, it’s not gimmicky, but that will inspire more people to buy cars. And what does it cost that dealer? Nothing

Jim Fitzpatrick: Nothing. That’s right.

Lisa Copeland: Nothing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s exactly right. Talk to us about the speculation out there in the marketplace and the concern that Fiat may pull out of the US market.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah, I’ve heard that also. I guess the thing I would say about that is there was a lot of us that worked really, really hard back in 2010 and 2011 to relaunch that brand to the US, and it’ll just always have such a great place in my heart. And I have heard it, and I’m sad about it because I think it’s a great brand, I think it’s a great car, and there were just a lot of really great and committed dealers that I served alongside over the years. But it’s hard. Look at some of the brands who’ve had a lot more years in the market: Pontiac, and Saab, and Saturn. And so it’s hard to keep a car brand sustainable.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It is. It is. There’s no question.

Lisa Copeland: It just, it is. And sometimes I think that car brands have their season, but I’m really honored that I got to do that, the successful season, that I got to do that with the Fiat brand. Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: If you were back in the seat of running a dealership today for the balance of 2019, what would be some of the things you’d be telling your troops to maximize profits, and to hit the kind of volume numbers that you want to hit at your store?

Lisa Copeland: Yeah, it would be one million percent social-focused, and I would bring in some of the best social media leaders within the industry. And I hate the word trainer. I think trainers are obsolete nowadays, but social media influencers. And I believe that there’s a great way to build your dealership and your brand by using influencers within your markets. I think that’s number one.

Number two, making sure that your salespeople really understand the importance of social media, and that they’re very active. They’re active in friending your clients, they’re active in posting what they’ve got going on at the dealership, that they do things on social media the right way. So they’re not putting stuff out there that would be offensive to clients, a million percent. And another thing that we did over the years is what I called the, “Taking it to the streets.” And it’s not just sitting behind the four walls of the dealership, going out and making connections in the community. My good friend, I know he’s a friend of yours too, Ali Rita. He talks about it all the time, that he is so high profile within the community … In fact, I talked to Ali’s dear business partner today just before I came on the show, and he said, “Ali worked 17 days last month, and sold 126 cars.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, my gosh. Wow.

Lisa Copeland: But you do it and it’s sustainable, because you’re known outside. And that’s another thing dealers have a problem with. They don’t want to let them outside the four walls. They want to make sure that they’re caged 12 hours a day so they can watch them. Well, that is not productive when there is a luncheon they could go to, there’s companies that they could go visit, and talk to their HR department, and set up corporate buying programs. It is endless, and that’s what we work with our dealers on is, what is that organic social reach that you can go out there and you can sustain, even in what is going to be perceived, in my opinion, and I think it’s perception, perceived as a down year and a downmarket?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, Lisa Copeland, president and CEO, and founder of Cars Her Way, and now radio show host. That is so cool. I want to thank you so much-

Lisa Copeland: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: …for joining us on CBT News. Your presence here is always welcomed, and we get so much great feedback from our viewers and subscribers. So thank you so much and good luck to you on the new show.

Lisa Copeland: Thank you very much.