Looking at the Automotive News alerts today, you’d quickly find the following stats: Ford down 34%, Toyota down 32%, Honda down 24%, GM down 15.6%, Volkswagen 9.4% and on…  So, let’s all shrivel up at retail.  Or we can lift ourselves up by the bootstraps and realize that there’s a job to do.

So, looking at figures as simply that, we’re likely down 3 million plus new units this year.  Unweighted, that’s 11-14 cars less per franchise per month in the US (trying to figure how many dealerships will be in business and how many units will actually be sold by December 31 is not so easy).

First, dealers have to become real marketers nearly for the first time.  Not advertising.  Nobody will argue that car dealers advertise.  We must start thinking as savvy consumers and not sales people and do a much better job engaging the public.

Second, you have to have a plan in place, preferably 2-3 months at a time.  And that means not advertising cars after they’re already been in stock for 55 days, for example.  One idea is marketing to customers (yes, sales and service) before inventory arrives.

Third, give people reasons to come in to your dealership: events, new owner clinics, launches, car clubs, ride-and-drives (read: no pressure) and other reasons to come in besides that beautiful newsletter that many dealers are now sending to leads that don’t answer back.

Fourth, figure out ways to deal with the credit issues (both dealership and consumer) that not only builds your customer base, but that simple makes sense in addition to a quick buck.

We absolutely have to become proactive rather than reactive.  It’s incredibly hard, takes energy, takes time, takes resources, takes attention and takes risk.  Isn’t that why you got into business in the first place?

See you at JD Power’s Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas next week, let’s cook up some great ideas together…

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results