Beefed-up detailing unit speeds used-car turnaround
Virginia dealer now can get trade-ins on the lot for sale in as little as 2 days
Published in Automotive News Aug. 6, 2012
Jake Moore, general manager of Country Chevrolet Inc. in Warrenton, Va., has learned that when it comes to used-car sales, the devil is in the detailing -- and reconditioning.
The dealership had built its used-car operations, spread over three off-site lots in addition to the used-vehicle operation at the main store, into a thriving business.
By 2010, neither the dealership's service department nor its lots' detailers could keep up with the volume of used cars and trucks that needed to be reconditioned and detailed before they could be sold.
So Moore presented owner Andy Budd with a plan: Consolidate and expand the detail staff, open another service shop to recondition and service non-General Motors vehicles and build a photo booth to speed the posting of inventories online.
The result is an operation that can take a trade-in or other used vehicle and recondition, detail and post it online in as little as two days, down from as long as three weeks before.
The store has increased its service department gross profit attributable to used-car reconditioning to well over $100,000, a month, from $30,000 a month. It also added two used-car lots along the way.
Moore's goal is to increase used-vehicle sales to well over 400 units a month, from the current 300, within two years, and perhaps add more used-car lots. A team of buyers stocks the dealership's lots with trade-ins and about 300 to 400 vehicles bought each month.
In contrast, the dealership sells 80 to 100 new Chevrolets a month.
Since launching the plan, Moore, 34, has increased his detailers to nine, from four, and has relocated seven of them to the dealership's former body shop. The other two work at one of the lots, simply because there isn't enough space at the dealership. All of the lots, the photo booth and the service shop are within 10 miles of the dealership.
Before putting the plan and processes in place, the dealership and each of the three lots it then owned had its own detailers.
In 2010, after getting Budd's go-ahead, Moore bought a building, gutted it and set up a photo booth. He also hired a photography company to take pictures for online vehicle listings.
In April 2011, Moore opened a separate service shop staffed with five technicians who recondition non-GM used vehicles.
Country Chevrolet's successful used-sales business strategy relies on adding used-car lots that specialize in a particular type of vehicle.
In 2000, a year before Moore joined the store as a salesman, the dealership opened a used-vehicle lot that specializes in luxury cars. That was followed by a lot that specializes in customized Jeep Wranglers.
By now, another lot favors high-mileage cars and trucks. The used-car operation at the dealership proper leans toward large SUVs, sports cars and pickups. The newest lot opened this year and is still trying to find its niche, Moore says.
The company's most successful used-car lot stocks only late-model 4x4 diesel trucks. It sells about 60 vehicles a month.
Moore believes the specialty nature of the used-vehicle lots gives used-car shoppers in the Washington, D.C., area and beyond a reason to travel to Warrenton, which had a population of about 9,600 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site. About 60 percent of the dealership's diesel truck sales are to out-of-state customers.
You can reach Arlena Sawyers at email@example.com.