On this episode of Inside Automotive, Jason Frampton, Market President of Ken Garff Automotive Group, joins host Jim Fitzpatrick to discuss how his dealership is acclimating to a changed market landscape.
Since the COVID pandemic, denizens of the automotive retail sector have employed a multitude of strategies to battle economic headwinds, with wildly varying results. While some dealers and automakers barely scraped by, others recorded record growth and profits. Ken Garff Automotive Group was in the latter half, which Frampton attributes to the organization’s excellent sales team. Due to the company’s focus on education and collaboration, the sales department was able to adapt to the industry’s new challenges without losing the skills needed to compete in a normal car market. Frampton is confident the employees at his dealership will be able to handle any challenges that arise in 2023. “I keep saying I don’t know what 2023 is going to bring for sure, but I know we’re going to be ready for it because we have some really good leaders in the dealership, and some great employees that have learned how to pull together through unprecedented times.”
Although the sales process changed considerably in response to the COVID pandemic, traditional tactics have nevertheless started to reappear in the dealership. However, while managers may be familiar with these practices, they may be unaware that their teams are far less prepared to face returning customers. Given the high turnover rate in the sales department, many employees have never experienced the pressures of a healthy car market. “Roughly 40% of our [current] salesforce did not sell cars before 2020,” notes Frampton. He warns that many storeowners who neglected to maintain their staff’s proficiency during 2021 and 2022 will find the coming years just as difficult as those since the COVID pandemic. On the other hand, dealers who have kept their department up to speed on “old-school” methods will be positioned perfectly to catch the first wave of returning customers.
Despite supply chain stabilizations, deliveries are still inconsistent between OEM brands. Even though cars are arriving on lots, shortages, especially for high demand models, are still common, causing many dealers to struggle with their day supply. While he agrees that automakers are supplying retailers with more vehicles than they have since 2020, Frampton clarifies that, “We’re not necessarily getting the product that consumers want.” While refraining from pointing the finger, he also notes that this issue is “manufacturer specific.” Of course, nobody intends to pack their store full of low demand cars, but, without any better options, inventory-starved dealers may be tempted to accept more stock than they can sell in a profitable time frame. Although some brands may be more reliable than others, dealers who hope to maintain their profit margins in 2023 will need to pay close attention to supply and demand ratios on per-model basis.