Embracing online selling has enabled Dave Walter BMW in Akron, Ohio, to outperform bigger dealerships in more affluent markets, said Shujaat Siddiqui, the dealership's general manager.
"The secret to my success was the fact that I had my whole new-car inventory listed with an exact lease payment," he said. Lease penetration at the dealership is around 70 percent of new-car sales -- high even by BMW standards, he said.
The strategy is to get customers settled on a particular car at a particular monthly payment before they get to the dealership, instead of having to drag them through the process at the store, he said. That saves time and effort for the dealership, and reduces friction for customers, Siddiqui said.
With just four salespeople, Dave Walter BMW sold 1,289 vehicles in 2015, new and used combined, Siddiqui said. "We are able to keep a small staff and work the customers in a more efficient way," he said. "The most important thing is having the right group of salespeople."
The dealership also employs product specialists to do walk-arounds, test drives and deliveries with customers, further freeing up salespeople to concentrate on sales, he said. The dealership has separate F&I managers, he added.
Siddiqui said BMW of North America rated his dealership No. 1 in the nation for 2015, based on 15 key performance indicators, including achieving the dealership's annual sales target, market share, lead conversion and loyalty, plus customer satisfaction scores. Siddiqui serves on BMW of North America's advisory e-commerce committee.
Online listings for the dealership's inventory stress the advertised monthly payment, because that's what most customers are looking for, he said. Advertised monthly payments come with disclaimers, such as, "Lease rates are based on the creditworthiness of the customer. Not all customers will qualify for the lowest rates."
Siddiqui joined the dealership as a salesman 12 years ago. He was promoted to general manager five years ago.
"I'm trying to create an online purchasing process so my customers have the ability to go online, pick a car, pick the options and features, calculate the payments and submit an application online," Siddiqui said.
"The customer goes and lands themselves on a car. They determine the down payment, the [annual lease] miles," he said. "When they get to the dealership, we show them one car -- the car that they picked -- and we have everything ready."