If a car is a star, say so in creative inventory listings
Some used cars are stars, but many buyers wouldn’t know that because of the bland way vehicles are described in many dealerships’ inventory.
So says veteran auto retailer Robert Grill when describing the “#1 mistake” of used car shelves.
It goes back to the industry axiom that no two used cars are the same. There is no used car factory producing models with the same mileage and under identical conditions.
“But we made them all look the same” when online vehicle listings lack creative descriptions, says Grill (photo below left)senior executive at Carfax, which compiles vehicle accident histories.
When inventory listings are limited to the equivalent of name, rank and serial number, “the customer can’t tell the difference,” he says at American International Automobile Dealers Assn. online seminar.
Therefore, a vehicle that deserves exceptional treatment may get lost in the mess and not achieve the higher retail price it deserves.
Grill urges dealerships to maximize profits by descriptively touting a vehicle that deserves a higher sticker price. “Show it and tell it. Otherwise it seems too expensive.
“Every car has a story,” confirms Mike Rossman, webinar participant, consultant and retired vice president of sales at AutoNation, the nation’s largest dealership chain.
“It’s how you paint that story that attracts customers,” he says. “The sales team needs to know this story – and tell it.”
For example, a single-owner car is “definitely worth more than a multi-owner car,” says Grill, who began his automotive career as a car salesman on New Year’s Day 1986.
The stakes are also raised when a car is accident free and comes with a documented service history.
Grill advises dealers to rely less on VIN-filling software that uses factory-assigned vehicle identification numbers to list individual features and specifications.
Some of these details are superfluous in inventory lists, he says. “There’s no vehicle today without power steering, electronic door locks and air conditioning, so why put those things in there?”
He quotes a well-done vehicle description that looks like this:
“Just Arrived: This beautiful 2019 Toyota Highlander, personally leased, accident free, to 1 owner. We leased it to the original owner who loved doing business with us so much that our Toyota Certified mechanics took care of it all his life.
Another well-done vehicle description he quotes manages to turn a negative into a positive: “This vehicle is so beautiful that it was briefly stolen and had minor cosmetic damage which we repaired at the dealership.”
Many buyers are suffering from sticker shock these days because demand has exceeded supply. Parts shortages forced automakers to cut production, which in turn raised transaction prices on new cars. As a knock-on effect, used car prices have also increased.
But demand is slowing somewhat and prices are falling, says webinar participant Doug Hadden, vice president of ACV Auctions.
“Prices are slowly sliding towards – I hate to use the word – normalcy,” he says. “They are heading for a soft landing.”