Automotive Government Rescue

I’m sure a lot of our readers watched, listened to, or have read the speech given by President Obama, especially if you sell GM or Chrysler.

He spoke very strongly about the government’s lack of desire to run an auto company.  The President also made it very clear that “We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish.  This industry is like no other — it’s an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. “

So, what’s the government’s verdict on the viability plans submitted by GM and Chrysler?  Basically, they’re not good enough.  But they think they could be good enough soon.  In more detail:

“As an initial step, GM is announcing today that Rick Wagoner is stepping aside as Chairman and CEO. …it’s a recognition that will take new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.”

GM will receive “working capital” for 60 days in which they must work with Obama’s team and “ask themselves:  Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands?  Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can’t make future investments?  Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?”

Chrysler, in the words of the President, “is more challenging.”  It’s been decided that “Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable.”  Basically, Chrysler has 30 days to work out a finalized deal with Fiat and agree to pay back “taxpayers for any new investments that are made before Fiat is allowed to take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler.”

“If they {Chrysler and Fiat} are able to come to a sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed.  But if they and their stakeholders are unable to reach such an agreement, and in the absence of any other viable partnership, we will not be able to justify investing additional tax dollars to keep Chrysler in business.”

Bankruptcy was mentioned, and because of the power of that word, President Obama explained that if need be, the US Government would use existing laws to make it easier for the two companies to “quickly clear away old debts” and “restructure quickly and emerge stronger.”

To encourage consumers to buy Chrysler and GM vehicles, Obama announced that the US government will now back up warranties from these two companies.  Also, funds from the Recovery Act designed to increase federal fleet purchases will be released as quickly as possible.  The Treasury Department is working with auto finance companies to make credit more readily available.  Tax breaks are available to “deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes” for auto purchases made this year.  Congress is also exploring a program that will give “generous credit” to those who trade-in older vehicles for “cleaner cars.”

So, what do you think?  What type of “hard choices” do you expect to be asked to make, by both your OEM and the government?  What has your dealership done already?

Automotive Blogging – How To

I wrote a post last week about the search engine optimization (SEO) stats your dealership needs to track, and wanted to expand a bit.  Your dealership website needs to allow you to track more than just SEO statistics.

The 6 things your dealership website provider needs to measure are:

  • Traffic—this should include all sources like organic, paid (PPC), OEM, referring sites, and direct.  If your website provider isn’t showing you which sources your traffic is using to reach your website, they need to be.
  • Organic Traffic by Keyword—there are three types of keywords: branded, platinum, and long tail.  Branded means someone is using your dealership name as a keyword.  Platinum is typically 2-3 words and includes your city, make you sell, and “dealer” or “dealership.  Long tail keywords are longer and can be specific makes, models, or even vehicle years.  Challenge your website provider to take it a step further and provide you with the actual keywords that are being used to find your dealership online.
  • Changes in Traffic—which months brought the most traffic to your website?  Which years?  If you don’t know, your website provider isn’t doing their job.  Being able to see when traffic is reaching your site, as well as how, will help you determine what accounts for the shifts in numbers.
  • Changes in Lead Volume—knowing when your dealership website has a dip or spike in lead conversion will help you know why these changes happened.  You need to be able to see your leads on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and see where they are coming from.
  • Leads by Lead Form—does your website provider show you which lead conversion forms are doing their job?  If not, how can you test which are most effective, which need work, and which can done away with?  Unfortunately, you can’t—but you absolutely need to.
  • Leads by Traffic Source—just as you need to know where your traffic is coming from, it’s equally important to know where your leads are coming from as well.  This will allow you to see which traffic sources are converting at the best rate (organic, PPC, OEM, etc).  Knowing which sources convert the best will also help you determine where you should be spending your online advertising budget.

If your website provider either doesn’t or can’t provide you with these statistics, it’s time to reconsider who you choose to create and manage your online presence.

Customer Satisfaction in a Down Economy

Every dealership is after the (often) illusive repeat customers.  With people buying less often, earning the loyalty of the customers you do sell to can pay off.  Once you’ve earned the business of repeat customers, the next step is to turn them into evangelists—those who recommend your dealership and ultimately send more sales into your showroom.

These types of customers are beneficial because they not only help to create more profit for your dealership, but also to direct those sales away from your competitors.  But have you ever thought about how much people who recommend against buying from your dealership could be costing you?

Found on the Church of the Customer blog, Satmetrix published a study about how much financial harm unsatisfied customers can have on the bottom line of a business.  While the results below are focused on the wireless industry, I think it’s worth looking at:

In this case, a negative word of mouth results in losing $300 per unsatisfied customer.  Can your dealership afford this?

Make sure customer service is consistent throughout your dealership, and that there is a plan in place to try and satisfy unhappy customers BEFORE they start costing your dealership money.  This could include using automatically sent surveys to attempt to find those who are less than content with your dealership, as well as keeping you finger on the online pulse of blogs and other online forums.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that your dealership keeps your customers happy.  If you don’t, ignoring an unpleasant experience may be costing your dealership more money than you know.

Dealership Grammar

There are always classes in school that make you wonder, “When will I ever need to know this?”  For me, that class was English.  Have you ever needed to know when to use a past participle, or what a homonym is?  Neither have I…but the more I write and get involved online (conducting business via email, writing this blog, participating in online social networks), I have begun to realize that while I may not need to know the definitions of these grammatical terms, I definitely need to know how to use them accurately.

Using correct spelling and good grammar are becoming more and more essential to running a successful business.  It’s amazing how much of a blow to your credibility and professional image it can be when a potential customer reads an email with misspellings or incorrect grammar.  Put yourself in their shoes…two vendors are showing you similar products, but one doesn’t speak well and their emails have spelling errors…which vendor are you more likely to choose?

I never paid much attention in English, and wish now that I would have.  While the written word is not my strong point, I’ve found ways around this.  I use a spell-checker every chance I get, both in my word documents and in my emails.  I have co-workers look over and proofread almost everything I send to customers or potential customers.  Some things do slip through the cracks, and when they do, I go back and fix them when possible (blog, social networking), or make a point to learn from my grammatical mistake.  Nobody’s perfect, after all.

Whether you’re already a stickler for grammar, or lean a little more to the “alternative spelling” side, not utilizing all the tools available to ensure your spelling and grammar are correct could be costly to your dealership’s sales.  Whether it’s fair or not, using correct English gives your potential customers confidence in doing business with your auto dealership and helps build trust that they are choosing the right place and salesperson to buy from.

What tools do you use to help check your spelling and grammar?  Any tricks of the trade that work well for you?  Let me know—I can always use more help!

Dealership Closings – Can Your Website Compete?

While I was at the NADA Convention in New Orleans this past weekend, the biggest news I heard was the announcement by General Motors (GM) that they plan to close 400 dealerships yearly until 2012.  According to Left Lane News, the company hasn’t decided what will determine which dealerships will be shut down, but “the automaker will base its decision on the age of the dealership, location, volume, and customer satisfaction.”

This is scary.  Not only do GM dealerships have to worry about having to close their doors because of the down economy and lack of sales, but it appears as though they will also have to worry about being shut down by their OEM.  While GM may not say so, you know that if your dealership can remain profitable and move more metal for your OEM than your competitors are, your chances of being shut down are drastically reduced.  If your dealership wants to increase the number of cars you sell, you need to make sure you can be found where your customers are looking: online.

Your dealership NEEDS to have an EFFECTIVE website.  Your customers are using the Internet to find their next vehicle; in fact, 80% of new vehicle buyers use search engines while researching their purchase.  If you don’t have a dealership website, you are missing out on 80% of potential sales.

Not only do you need a site, you need one that ranks well in search engine results.  Since only 10% of Google users ever click onto the second page of search results, if your website doesn’t appear on the first page, you’re missing out on 90% of potential sales.  42% of Google users will click on the first listing, so just being on the first page isn’t always enough.  You need to be at the top.

Sales are becoming more and more difficult to come by, so making sure your dealership can be found online is more important than ever before.  If your dealer site isn’t bringing leads and sales into your dealership, it’s time you rethink who your website provider is.  You can’t afford to lose any more potential sales.

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