It’s been a year of incredible resiliency, growth, and innovation in the automotive industry. Manufacturers like Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, and many others have committed to developing more hybrids and EVs in the next few years. Consumers have demanded an increasingly convenient, less time-consuming experience when shopping for vehicles and servicing the one they own. And dealerships are feeling the crunch with technicians becoming scarcer.

In the past eleven months, it’s becoming clear what needs to occur in the next year to stay relevant and experience growth. These five trends are a resounding declaration of what it will take to stay ahead of competing dealerships in your area.

Prepare for Electrification

The Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, Honda Clarity Electric, VW e-Golf, and many others are going to be popular mainstream EVs. Every mass-producing manufacturer has electric cars already in their lineup or coming soon, and it needs to be a priority for your store.

The staff need to be trained on electric vehicle technology at all levels. Salespeople must be aware of how to demonstrate them. Service departments must be equipped to service and repair them. Technicians must be trained to handle these high-voltage vehicles. Yet, there’s more that can be done.

The dealership itself can be a hub for EV activity. Add public fast-charging stations at your store to encourage electric car customers. Eventually, electrification will dominate the industry, so it’s best to get ahead of the competition today.

Create an Off-Site Selling Strategy

Customers this year have been vocal in saying they don’t want the high-pressure sales environment at the dealership. As many as half would prefer the demo process to come to them instead, and manufacturer are beginning to oblige. Hyundai, Kia, and Lincoln already offer it in some capacity, and a few dealerships are already offering it on their own.

Give car shoppers the option to test drive cars at their own location, whether that’s home or work. The technique gives the buyer a feeling of security and control, while allowing you to put your product before their eyes, instead of your competitor. It can definitely attract customers who otherwise would not shop at your store.

Simplify the In-Dealership Experience

Car shoppers have also been saying this year that it takes too long to buy a car at the dealership, start to finish. That indicates a need for efficiency, countering the traditional idea that the more time spent with the customer, the more likely the sale.

A dealership can have demo cars plated and ready for a test drive instead of salespeople scrambling to find a demonstrator plate. Tablets can speed up the process of collecting information, and also accelerate the close. Online F&I tools can reduce the wait time for credit approval and help present protection packages easily.

Simply stated, customers don’t want to spend so long in the dealership.

Hire and Retain Top Technicians

There’s a technician shortage, and it’s not a secret. A priority moving into 2018 should be to fully staff your service department with high-quality, well-trained technicians and support staff. One of the most effective methods to retain good technicians is to treat them so well that they don’t want to leave. That will mean paying higher wages, creating incentive plans, and giving recognition regularly.

Pair with local trades colleges to cherry pick top-of-the-class apprentices to draw in new blood. Hiring technicians from other dealers nearby can be a short-term solution, but keep in mind that a technician willing to leave elsewhere will likely leave your store, given the right reason.  

Develop a Pickup and Delivery Service

Car maintenance and repairs isn’t seen as a routine task any longer, but an inconvenience. Service customers will visit the most convenient solution, a reason most dealerships see a steep decline in retention after 12 months.

Develop and implement a vehicle pickup and delivery service for your store. It may be simply a valet or it could include a loaner vehicle – either option is effective. When a customer sees servicing their vehicle at the dealership is more convenient than going elsewhere, they simply won’t even look elsewhere. It’s certainly an added immediate expense but the long-term retention is a fantastic reward.

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